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Franco-Swedish noir – set in London and Falkenberg

28th April 2018

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson, Franco-Swedish noir set in London and Falkenberg.

Franco-Swedish noir

Keeper is the second great noir mystery by brilliant French writer, Johana Gustawsson, to be published in English. As the first, Block 46, it is excellently translated by Maxim Jakubowski. Keeper shares structure and some characters with Block 46 – but it is a very different story. The present day scenes alternate in both books between London and Falkenberg in Sweden. And in both books there is also a time shift element. In Block 46 it was back to the Buchenwald concentration camp in WW2, in Keeper it is back to the Whitechapel murders of Jack the Ripper in Victorian England.

In both Block 46 and Keeper the key investigators are Emily Roy, a Scotland Yard criminal profiler, and Alexis Castells, a French true-crime writer. They are aided and abetted by detectives from London and Falkenberg – and the action swings between the two cities. In Keeper, the present day London strand, the Falkenberg strand, and the Jack the Ripper strand all come together as the story heads for its climax. It is a totally riveting, but very scary, read. And, most certainly, it is not for those of a prudish or nervous disposition, or those expecting a cosy Agatha Christie style mystery. The book is peppered with obscenely mutilated bodies, highly deviant sex, and extensive cannibalism. There are not many places that Johana, a quite delightful French lady, is not prepared to go. A year ago now, just before the publication of Block 46, I interviewed her. I asked how she, as a writer, coped with so many unpalatable themes… The response:

‘It seems that I was born reading books of forensic psychology! I find it absolutely fascinating to dive and dig into a killer’s mind and it doesn’t scare me at all. The only part that was extremely difficult to write about was Buchenwald; it gave me horrific nightmares and the testimonies of the survivors seems to be tattooed in my mind…’

That, I guess, was largely because her paternal grandfather was incarcerated there.

There is no doubt that Keeper follows in the Block 46 tradition. It is a great addition to the world of noir novels, and lives alongside the best…

Tony for the TripFiction team

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