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.
Sometimes a book comes along that makes you want to read long into the night because you just have to know what happens next, Block 46 is one such book.
I was lucky enough to meet Johana at Newcastle Noir a few weeks ago and heard her talk at the penultimate panel of the weekend which concentrated on Nordic Noir. Johana is French, married to a Swede and lives in London and her very European roots radiate through Block 46, taking us from the UK, to Flakenberg, Sweden and to the horrors of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. She talked passionately about Block 46, her inspiration for the novel and her very personal motivation behind the scenes set in 1944; so much so that you could have heard a pin drop. She spoke so eloquently and beautifully that as soon as the panel finished I bought a copy of Block 46 (one of only 3 books I bought that weekend as I was under strict instructions from my husband not to bankrupt us) as I just had to own it.
This book has everything I love in a novel; a clever and inventive plot, tension, multi-person narratives, time jumps and more noir than you can shake a stick at. I adore a novel that makes me think, when I know that the clues are in reach and I desperately try to join the dots to stay one step ahead of the killer.
One of the narratives is from the point of view of the killer which took us down some dark and disturbing avenues as we learned about his psyche. I really liked this approach, as a reader I love to know what the antagonist is thinking – I really engage with the character and the book and it makes it a much more personal experience for me. It also meant that I spent most of the novel trying (and failing) to work out I was sure that I had it right at least 7 times before realising I was wrong. Again.
I found Block 46 a very moving novel, which may seem an odd thing to say about a noir book but, I can read about violence and crime and be unaffected as it is quite clearly fiction, however Johanna delves into the atrocities that took place at Buchenweld and I know that these events are real. This book tackles the crimes that took place there head-on and is unapologetic in its approach to shine a spotlight on the horrors of WW2 so that we never forget. These parts are never gawkish or unneccessary, they are horrific in their subtlety and, as is so often the case; it is what is unseen that is terrifying.
Block 46 is released on 15th May and can be bought here. I highly recommend this book, it is beauitful, brutal, tense and compelling and packs a punch. It also has the most wonderful cover so please make sure you buy it in paperback!