There are some books where the synopsis cannot possibly prepare you for what you are about to read. Where the synopsis cannot begin to encompass the words contained within the covers. Where words like shocking and breathtaking are inadequate to describe the experience.
Block 46 is one of those books.
It’s been one week since I finished this book, and I am sitting here struggling to form words for this review. Everything I want to say feels inadequate. Or is full of spoilers. And this book should not be spoiled.
The premise of two dead bodies, mutilated in the same way but found in different countries sounded interesting. Then you add in the story of a young man struggling to maintain his humanity in Buchenwald during the Holocaust.
“Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?”
That one sentence from the back cover was enough to captivate me. However, the skill in which Johana Gustawsson draws the reader in, made me frantically turn the pages wanting to know what was happening and what would happen next.
How do you tie in current events with the horrors of the past? Each clue we are given doesn’t make sense. How can a survivor match the profile of a killer between 35-45 years old? How could we believe that someone who fought to live would then seek to take lives?
The art of suspense in this book is deeply psychological. Gustawsson takes us down a path, unveiling glimpses of the scenery around us, making us comfortable with where we think she is taking us. She allows us to form our own opinions and solidify our beliefs before she reveals the reality.
Profiling serial killers is already a plot line full of psychological suspense. I’ve always been fascinated with the skill behind profiling. How can you put yourself in the mind of a killer and maintain your humanity. To hunt, or be hunted. To take the clues from gruesome and horrific scenes where pain and terror taint every surface is impressive. And also terrifying.
But there is more than the psychology of a profiler or a serial killer lurking in these pages. There is the exploration of being a victim, of being a survivor.
I think alternating the story with scenes and descriptions from the Holocaust, makes this book especially haunting. She does not back away from the horror of a concentration camp. We are shown the brutality in a matter of fact narration, which serves to only drive home the harshness of that reality. There is no minimizing the horror, no glamorizing or softening the impact.
There is evil in this world and Block 46 doesn’t allow you to forget this.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am always surprised when a plot twist manages to actually shock me. This book didn’t feel predictable exactly, but I did feel comfortable with the direction it was taking me. Except, when the end came, I found that I wasn’t prepared at all for what the ending revealed.
The twist was unexpected, but the ending felt more like being in a fight. The hits continue to land from all around, leaving you gasping as you turn the final pages.
Block 46 is a book that will stay with you long after you put it down. I find myself picking it up, only to shake my head as I remember the journey it took me on. Johana Gustawsson artfully weaves suspense and mystery together. I am in awe of the final result.
Anyone who enjoys suspense, mystery and thrillers needs to read this book!
Thank you Orenda books for the amazing opportunity to read and experience this exceptional novel.