About The Book
Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.
London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?
Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down…
I’ve written before about my visit to Newcastle Noir last year and the books and authors I discovered. One such book was Block 46 a clever dual timeline book set both in the present day and in the concentration camps of World War 2. I fell absolutely in love with the book and Johana Gustawsson’s writing so when I discovered that she had a new book, Keeper on the way, I couldn’t wait to read it.
This is another clever and sophisticated novel from Gustawsson. It features Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, whom we met in Block 46, (Keeper is the second in a series but can be read as a standalone) who become embroiled in a case which reopens old wounds for Alexis. A famous actress goes missing from outside her house and a woman’s body is found badly mutilated next to a lake in Falkenberg, Sweden – both cases are reminiscent of the Tower Hamlet murders but the culprit is behind bars and has been for the past decade. Interspersed with this are flashbacks to 19th Century London and Jack the Ripper’s Whitehall, a place filled with undesirables, prosititues and murders. In less accomplished hands the sections in the past would feel clunky and out of place but these parts were full of ominous tension and the slow, clever build has a heck of a pay-off.
I am a little in love with Keeper, it is a phenomenally strong novel which interweaves many plots into an accomplished finished piece. Using real-life historical truths from Jack the Ripper’s murders makes the crimes even more horrific and we can feel the fear seeping from the pages. Contrasting this with the modern-day killings and the police investigations both in the UK and Sweden is a wonderful technique allowing us to try to put the pieces together and try and stay one step ahead of the investigators.
The friendship between Emily and Alexis is wonderfully written – it is complicated, flawed and loyal and felt true to life. In fact, characterisation is something that Gustawsson really excels in (along with her fantastic sense of place – I was terrified at one particular section) and I was fully connected to each and every person and their stories.
This is one of my top reads of 2018 – flowing prose (expertly translated by Maxim Jakubowski), clever and sophisticated writing, a well developed plot, historical facts mixed with modern day fiction, characters who leap from the page and jaw-dropping moments. If you haven’t read Block 46, please do then read Keeper, you won’t be disappointed.
About The Author
Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. Her debut, Block 46, was an award-winning, international bestseller, with Keeper following suit. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.
I am thrilled to be one of today’s stops for the Blog Tour for Keeper written by Johana Gustawsson, many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things for inviting me onto the Tour.