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.
Q&A with Johana Gustawsson
Describe yourself using three words?
Certified totally crazy!
What inspired you to write your first novel?
My paternal grandfather’s life story inspired Block 46: he was a French resistant who was deported to Buchenwald in 1943. He was neither a loving father nor a caring grandfather, and I was always intrigued by the fact that everyone in my city used to praise him and talk about the hero he was. I knew of course about his involvement in the war, but I didn’t really understand what it implicated physically, morally and mentally, until I dived myself into the Nuremberg trials and the testimonies of the survivors, surrounded by the barbarity, the violence, the hunger and the desperation. I then understood that the trauma was so deep, that he could not be a man anymore, he could just be a hero.
What time of day do you like to write?
I write whilst my little one is at pre-school, but my favourite part of the day is early mornings when the city and the house are still quiet… which I won’t have for long as I am expecting twin boys!
What is your favourite book and why?
Ooooh! So hard to choose! But I would say Les Fleurs du Mal, a volume of French poetry by Charles Baudelaire. The writing is sublime and reading it feels like listening to a divine music.
How did you pick the title of your book?
I originally named Block 46 “Y”, as this novel talks about paternity and transmission, but my French publisher didn’t like it, so I thought that Block 46 was very adequate, as the block 46 in Buchenwald concentration camp is where the story begins.
Are the characters in your book based on real people?
A few years back, I read a book about a South African profiler: Micki Pistorius. I admired her passion, devotion and focus, which inspired me for Emily Roy. About my other female protagonist, Alexis Castells, I have to admit that we share the same European background, between France, London, Spain and Sweden!
Do you plan your story beforehand or go with the flow?
Oh, I definitely am the planner type! As I need to carefully plant clues here and there in order to make it difficult for the readers to find who did it, I set up the skeleton of the book before writing.
Who is your favourite Author?
If I really have to choose one, it would be Agatha Christie. Since my youngest age, her talent has mesmerised me; she shaped crime writing and left us unforgettable plots and characters.
You are attending a dinner party with four fictitious book characters who would they be and why?
Hercule Poirot, my dear Belgian detective, who I met at 7 reading The Mysterious affair at Styles; I have been utterly devoted to him ever since; Miss Marple, another of the unforgettable characters created by the Queen of crime; Sherlock Holmes and his brilliant deductive mind; and finally, Tom Ripley who would be killed during the pre-dinner drinks. The perfect occasion to witness Hercule, Sherlock and Jane Marple at work, don’t you think?
What book are you reading at the moment?
A Darker domain by Val McDermid, but in French… as I need not lose touch with the language I write with! A gripping read.
Where in the world is your happy place?
Anywhere, as long as I am with my family.
If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?
I am hesitating between Mr Hyde and Dr Hannibal Lecter…
Are you working on a new project?
I am currently working on Roy & Castells 3, as number 2 was published in March in France and will arrive in the UK in May 2018. This time, I am diving in the Franco dictatorship years, in Spain: terrifying times…
Do you have any upcoming events our members can attend?
Oh yes! I will be at Waterstones Piccadilly in London on the 17th of May with fourteen wonderful Orenda authors who are travelling from all over the world for the occasion; I will also attend Crimefest, in Bristol, from the 18th until the 20th of May, and I have been invited to The Felixstowe book Festival the Sunday 2nd of July. Hope to see you at one of those events!
Thank you, Johana Gustawsson and Orenda Books for allowing me on this fabulous tour!
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