Friday 12 May 2017

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson #BlogTour @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks #Block46 #FrenchNoir

Evil remembers...
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.
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.

Welcome to the BLOG TOUR for Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson, published in paperback by Orenda Books on 15 May 2017.

I'm delighted to bring you a guest post from the Book Magician herself today. Here's Karen Sullivan, publisher extraordinaire and founder of Orenda Books talking about how and why Violence serves a profound purpose in Block 46:

" We do not publish books that contain any gratuitous violence at Orenda Books; indeed, even translations that have erred in that direction have had disturbing scenes cut. I don’t like to read them; I don’t like to promote violence. Yet, there are some books, and Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson is a prime example, where the violence described is not just necessary but essential to the underlying messages of the book, the profoundly important points that it sets out to reveal. Sometimes we need to be shocked to understand.

Block 46 opens with the grisly discovery of a mutilated body, and yes, it’s a woman. It is only at the end of the book that we discover the reasons for this murder, which boasts the hallmark of a serial killer whose provenance is deeply troubling and possibly linked to the horrific events that took place in Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, during the Second World War. The horrors that were perpetrated at this camp, the first and the largest on German soil, fall so outside the realms of decency, fundamental humanity, that they are almost unbelievable. Johana Gustawsson’s grandfather was a prisoner here, the victim of some of the most heinous crimes perpetrated against mankind. For years, Johana wanted to tell this story, and in order to make it as impactful as possible, she chose the medium of crime fiction.

Johana is a journalist; her research is impeccable. She read through the transcripts of the Nuremberg trials in their entirety. In dispassionate, searingly brave and honest accounts, the victims of these camps tell their stories … the brutality endured, the inhumane conditions, the ‘medical experiments’ undertaken in the name of science and ethnic cleansing; the absolute horror that lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives in disgraceful circumstances. Johana movingly and freely admits that she did not include even 10 percent of what she learned, its nature so deeply troubling. But what Johana did do was transport us to Buchenwald, where we visit that small percentage of the travesties experienced. And it makes very grim, eye-opening and distressing reading.

Then Johana took this one step further. By setting just one example of the multitudinous evils perpetrated in a modern-day milieu, she sends a stark message. We are disgusted, sickened and outraged by what we read. From a contemporary perspective, these are unacceptable acts of violence and they provoke all sorts of emotions. And yet therein lies the point; acts like these were a daily occurrence in the Nazi concentration camps, and by revisiting them in our own time, in our own world, we are starkly reminded of horrors that should never be forgotten. As I said earlier, sometimes we need to be shocked to understand … in this case, very real atrocities from the past.

The violence described in Block 46 is not for the faint-hearted, but it serves a critical purpose, and it is, ultimately, a tribute to those victims, those who lost their lives, those who survived – and at what cost – at concentration camps like Buchenwald. And it goes further. Through the lens of a stunning plot, some exceptional writing, and an absolutely page-turning read, the very nature of evil is examined – what makes a man or a woman evil? What factors can push the bar of normal, decent behaviour so low that barbarity becomes acceptable? Can evil be inherited? How can ordinary, ostensibly decent people be encouraged not just to perpetrate sickening acts of violence but to embrace them and collectively push them to their limits? All of this and more underlies Block 46

And so when I hear murmurs (as publishers do) that Block46 contains gratuitous violence, I want to present a vehement argument in its defence. When I see a one-star review for this book on Goodreads, suggesting that it is ‘torture porn masquerading as crime fiction’, I know that this reviewer did not read the book in its entirety, because anyone who does will be stunned, moved and changed by doing so. Block 46 might be crime fiction, but it is much, much more than that, and it is a triumphant, if distressing, reminder of something in our not-so-distant past that we must not ever forget. Across the history of the genre, some of the very best crime fiction serves to highlight societal issues and wrongs, and through the medium of entertainment we learn; our thoughts are provoked and our eyes are opened. Block 46 does just that. So when the sickening acts are described – dispassionately, as they were by those who recounted their own experiences – remember that not so long ago what you are reading really happened."

Karen Sullivan, publisher of Orenda Books

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. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

Follow her on Twitter @JoGustawsson

1 comment:

  1. That's so true what Karen said about the violence in the book. It was graphic and you could only wish that some of it you read is fiction but when you realise thats what actually happened, it fills you with pure sadness of how cruel human beings can be. It was a great read for me.