“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.”
Sacré bleu! Already Block 46 is one of my top reads of 2017. Dark and devastating, and expertly translated from French to English, Block 46 takes the reader on a journey that most other books don’t want to go on. Block 46 reveals its story through the use of two timelines as it opens in present day London following the disappearance of jewellery designer, Linnea. Switching location to Falkenberg Sweden, a woman’s mutilated body is found hidden under a boat in a marina and the authorities start working to piece together Linnea’s last movements. When a young boys body is found in Hampstead Heath, London with the same mutilations there is clear there is a connection between the two, but why does this killer have such large hunting ground?
Alongside the murders in London and Sweden, the narrative takes us back to World War II, to Buchenwald Concentration Camp circa 1944. This is where we meet Erich, a German prisoner of war. Erich is subjected to horrific violence, de-humanisation and degradation, and just when Erich is ready to give up and succumb to his fate, he is moved to Block 46 in Buchenwald, and this is where the reader gets to find out the origins of the book’s title, and the relevance the past has on the present day murders. These chapters are not easy reading. I have read a lot of books set around WWII, in particular ones that include the atrocities of the Holocaust but the passages in Block 46 are amongst the most powerful and evocative I have read to date. The most horrific part being that these are not scenes the author has conjured up in her head, these acts of savagery happened to millions of real people and we should never lose sight of that.
This story sunk its claws into me and just would not let go. In the antagonist the author has created a sadistic monster, the kind nightmares are made of. Whilst repulsed I was ghoulishly fascinated at the same time, curiously wanting to find out more about this character and his psychopathology. Gustawasson weaves an unforgettable, dark tale and brings the horrors of the Holocaust to life right off of the pages. Despite the subject matter being so disturbingly heinous the author’s writing is beautiful and eloquent. The plot has been so carefully planned out, seemingly unconnected threads are woven together perfectly at the end. I thought I had the ending all figured out but with a twist I really did not see coming the author left me in a state of shock, and I found myself thinking about it long after finishing the book.
Highly recommend this clever and compelling crime fition novel, it’s hard to take in parts, but worth every single gasp. Thanks to Johana Gustawsson, Anne Carter and Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.