Sunday, 30 April 2017

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson - republished review

Block 46
By Johana Gustawsson
Translated by Maxim Jakubowski 
Published by Orenda Books (E-book - out now; Paperback - 15 May 2017)

Publisher's description
Evil remembers...
Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina.
Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea's.
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.
Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?

Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea's friend, French truecrime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

My verdict
Block 46 is very 'Orenda Crime', with short chapters, beautiful writing and a compelling fast-paced plot. It's been translated seamlessly from the original French by Maxim Jakubowski. I loved the plot, characters and setting, and I'm not surprised that Block 46 has won awards in France.

Shocking and dark from the outset, the book begins with the death of a young jewellery designer who splits her time between London and Sweden. When a young boy's body is discovered with similar wounds, it seems that there is a calculating serial killer on the loose - one whose passion for murder may be linked to the 1940s Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany.

I was so intrigued to see where Block 46 was going. Yet after just a few pages, I had to put the book down for a while, needing a break. I desperately wanted to read more, but also didn't. Those who know me well will know that books don't often have such an impact on me. And not many books make me email a publisher with the expression 'OMG'!

The murder scenes are gruesome - no holds barred - and really get under your skin. But for me, it was the Holocaust scenes that were the most visual and disturbing, with graphic and hard hitting descriptions of tragic scenes that could have, and probably did, happen in Nazi Germany. These scenes may seem exaggerated to some people, but sadly I knew they were realistic, having read many Holocaust books and listened to testimonies of Holocaust survivors.

Block 46 contains everything I want in crime fiction, including twists, turns and surprises. It totally broke me for a while at the end and is certainly not a book that I'll forget. I sat thinking about it for a long time afterwards and couldn't pick up another book straight away. I was worried that I would never be able to read again. Sadly I don't tend to read 'light and fluffy' so just had to wait for my reading mojo to return.

Perfect for those who like intelligent hard hitting crime with a hint of horror, Block 46 is chilling, creepy and spine tingling. Brilliant! And the best news of all is that it's the start of a series, so there's another one on the way!

I received an Advance Reader Copy.

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