Friday, 9 June 2017

JOHANA GUSTAWSSON - BLOCK 46 (2017)


Synopsis/blurb….

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. Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

WINNER: Nouvelle Plume D’Argent 2016

For fans of The Missing, Dominique Manotti, Camilla Lackberg, Stieg Larsson

"A real page-turner... I loved it!" -- Martina Cole,

"A great serial-killer thriller with a nice twist ... first rate." -- James Oswald

"A bold and audacious debut from a very talented writer. Heralds the beginning of a thrilling new series." -- R J Ellory

First book of June and a real chore to read if I’m honest.

I really didn’t enjoy this one and not for reasons relating to a difficult subject matter. The characters with the exception of one of the policemen, Kristian Olofsson were pretty uninteresting and I think this particular policeman was written to be a bit sexist and difficult before having his rough edges soothed away by the dazzling brilliance and insight of Emily, our profiler. I’m guessing Emily was portrayed as enigmatic and aloof, untouched emotionally by the victims of the crimes, maybe to show how tough women can be or perhaps because of an event and loss earlier in her life (revealed towards the end?) which leaves her distant. Either way, I didn’t really care. She just came across as flat and boring – to this reader at least. (I’m no doubt in a minority as of 31 reviews on Amazon UK have 24 @ 5* and the remaining 7 @4* - not for the first time the world is out of step with me.)

I enjoyed elements of the plot. We have a dual time line with our narrative, as events from Buchenwald during the last couple of years of the Second World War are portrayed, in between our current time lines of modern day murder and investigation.  We have a mix of locations, Germany in war time and Sweden post-war and present day and London present day.

The pages portraying life in the Concentration Camp were the most interesting to read and gave a vivid picture of the unrelenting cruelty and brutality of the Nazis. Thought provoking, disturbing, horrific and sad. Well portrayed without becoming gratuitous.

The current time line by contrast seemed dull and pedestrian, only really sparking to life and engaging me during the last 20-odd pages. By this time I was counting down to the finish line.
I kind of felt that the book was a bit torn between being a serial killer type novel and a novel depicting the cruelties of the Nazis in one of their death camps. The combination of the two and the way the plot unfolded linking both past and present just didn’t work for me.

Apologies but a lowly 2 from 5  - maybe visit Amazon for contrasting viewpoints.

I believe Block 46 is the first in a series featuring Roy & Castells. Roy being the Emily mentioned above and Castells being other half of our profiling-investigative duo, though Castells has no real authority in respect of the investigation. She was another uninteresting participant in our saga and unworthy of a mention (IMO). I do not anticipate reading anything else by this author.     

Read in June, 2017
Published – 2017 UK (2015 in France)
Page count – 312
Source – review copy from Orenda Books (thanks to Anne and Karen)
Format - paperback


8 comments:

  1. I've had that happen, too, Col, where my opinion of a book was quite different to what it seemed everyone else's was. Just goes to show that no book is for everyone. Sorry to hear you felt disappointed in this one.

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    1. Yes, its usually a rare occurrence and a bit of a disappointment, but if I hadn't read it I would never have known! There's always another good book around the corner.

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  2. To be honest, I'm offput by the publisher's comparisons with Lackberg and Larsson. I like a fair amount of Scandi noir, as you know, but, aside from Larsson's first, I've been disappointed by those two.

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    1. Everything has to be marketed as an imitation of something popular. I read one of Lackberg's and didn't like it, so maybe they are right on this occasion!

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  3. Well, the premise sounds good but not rushing out for new books right now.

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    1. I enjoyed bits but not enough of it unfortunately. Sounded better than it was, I'm afraid.

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  4. That's a shame - it sounded interesting when you featured it on the blog earlier. but they can't all be great...

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    1. You and Tracy might have a different reaction if you read it. I seem to be in a minority.

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