Reviewed by Louise Wykes
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 true-crime 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.
I have to admit I am enjoying my journey into the world of translated fiction. There are so many amazing writers I have discovered whose first language is not English and I am delighted to say that Block 46 is an outstanding example of the wonders that lie in wait in translated fiction.
Block 46 is the debut novel by Johana Gustawsson and I am praying that this is not her last as her writing enthralled me right from the very first page. The book takes place in different times and places but initially starts off in Hampstead Heath in London after a chilling first chapter that appears to be written from the perspective of the killer the reader will become familiar with throughout the book. We are then introduced to Alexis Castells who is a French true crime author who is about to find herself immersed into a real life crime case when her friend Linnea fails to turn up to the opening night of her own jewellery collection. Alexis then has to travel to Sweden where she then becomes involved with the murder investigation of her friend and then meets up with a profiler called Emily Roy who works as a profiler with the Canadian Royal Mounted Police.
As an avid watcher of criminal programmes such as Criminal Minds where it is the psychological side of crime and criminals that are explored I found this book to be fascinating as it shows how profiling works alongside traditional police work to help solve crimes and here the psychology was easily explained as if to a layman but lost none of its potency.
The book’s chapters move from various timescales and places including a lot of back story which is related from Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1944 and I found some of the descriptions of what happened at the camp quite shocking but not in a voyeuristic way and helped to explain how the atrocities which happened in the camp left long lasting marks on the people who managed to survive the camps.
I enjoyed the fact that this book had two female lead characters and I’m intrigued to see how the relationship between Roy and Castells develops in future books.
I devoured this book and found it a completely visceral yet fascinating read. Not to be read by the faint hearted but a startling insight into the dark and depraved minds that exist and the complicated and often tortured nature of the people who choose to spend their time trying to apprehend and stop the monsters that exist in the world. Simply magnificent.