Lead Review

  • Book: Block 46
  • Location: Falkenberg, Hampstead, London
  • Author: Johana Gustawsson

Review Author: tripfiction



Noir thriller set in BUCHENWALD, LONDON and SWEDEN

Here we talk to the author about life, writing and research

A new star of Swedish noir is born – or so it would appear.

IMG_1578Johana Gustawsson has created a brilliant book in the tradition of the great writers of Swedish noir. The book is black and dark, and leads the reader into places he or she would not normally choose to go. There is, though, one small catch… Johana (although married to a Swede) is very much a French lady who writes in her native language. So, should Block 46 be described as Swedish noir, or French noir, or even Franco-Swedish noir?

I’m not sure the label matters. What matters is that she has created a very impressive and very dark thriller. Block 46 is her first work translated into English (by the very capable Maxim Jakubowski), and I am quite certain it will be a critical success. The book is a time shift one. Chronologically it starts with the horrors of medical experimentation in the Buchenwald concentration camp as WW2 comes to an end. Then it is present day. There are gruesome child murders in London, and Linnéa, a London based jewellery designer, is killed near her holiday home in Falkenberg, Sweden. The bodies are mutilated after death in identical ways… Is there one killer operating between London and Sweden (and, if so, why the switch from children to a woman), or is there possibly a copycat killer at work, or maybe even a duo of killers – one based in each country.

The British and Swedish police – aided by criminal profiler, Emily Roy and French writer, Alexis Castells (who specialises in serial killers and was a friend of Linnéa’s) – investigate. It is precise and detailed work as Emily builds up her profile. The Buchenwald connection comes to the fore, and the horrors of what has been happening over the years slowly begin to emerge. Many a truly nauseating discovery is made – Block 46 is not for the faint hearted, nor for those of a sensitive disposition. The book moves to a scary, and unforeseen, conclusion.

I met Johana at a recent event in London – before I read Block 46. I marvel at how such a delightful French lady could write a book with such subject matter. The power of her imagination is quite amazing.

I urge you to read Block 46.

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