Block 46 is brutal and compelling. As a debut novel it is breath-taking. It manages to bring together the two extremes of human capacity, for horror and fortitude. It takes you to the depths of despair but also manages to offer you an olive branch of hope. It is the horrifying story of a relentless serial killer, a history lesson in man’s depravity to his fellow man and a tribute to those who somehow kept their own humanity intact in the most barbaric conditions.
At times I wanted to scream out while reading this book. In part at the systematic, savage cruelty of a regime that saw genocide as a higher calling and also at the individual, personal, methodical violence that it engendered in the people throughout that system. We treat peace with such contempt, whether it is breaking up the organisations that have promoted unity for decades or waging wars for corporate profit, but we must rediscover our voices to all scream out at rising nationalism, dehumanising of an ‘other’ and the true horrors that inevitably follow in their wake.
Beyond all of this, Block 46 is also a brilliant novel. Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, a criminal profiler and a true crime writer respectively, are an intriguing pair of crime fighters and their investigations between London and Sweden are well plotted and absorbing. Yet, simply trying to find words for a review seems so frivolous in the face of such a brave and powerful debut. Read Block 46, be utterly horrified by it and then never let politicians, media barons or social media pitchforks convince you that someone else is a ‘plague’, an ‘infestation’, a ‘cockroach’, or anything else but a fellow human being.
In Falkenberg, Sweden, the mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer Linnea Blix is found in a snow-swept marina. In 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.