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Keeper by Johana Gustawsson

Article by Swirl and Thread ©.
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‘The young woman was naked, sitting on the ground with her back against the dead tree trunk, legs wide apart, arms by her sides, the palms of her hands turned to the sky…Parted down the centre, her long blonde hair was splattered with mud and drawn back behind her shoulders to reveal her bust. Here, two dark-red craters now sat where her breasts should have been.’

Emily Roy and Alexis Castells are back with another investigation that will keep you up all night and will definitely result in a few stomach churning moments.

Keeper is the second novel in this series, following on from the incredible Block 46. Written by Johana Gustawsson and translated by Maxim Jakubowski, Keeper has just been published by Orenda Books.

Johana Gustawsson is wholly responsible for me having very strange dreams these past few days!

Block 46 was written by the author in part tribute to her Grandfather and his incarceration in Buchenwald. It touched a chord with me, even though, admittedly, the violence was raw and uncensored. In Keeper we are witness to similar scenes of a violent and graphic nature but yet, due to the author’s writing style, I was completely drawn in.

The book is broken up into short chapters headed by location and date as opposed to chapter number, which really keeps you, as the reader, on your toes. We journey back to 1888 in Whitechapel, London. The smells, the rankness, the squalor are depicted so well, that you can almost picture yourself there walking in the excrement of the London streets.

‘Everyone drank in Whitechapel; men, women and children alike. Alcohol was the best way to deaden the body and soul and cloud the fact that tomorrow would be just another today.’

As news swiftly gathers of a murder, the fear is palpable among some of the women of the night. These prostitutes live in appalling conditions, but yet they need to ply their wares on the streets to survive. Jack the Ripper has killed once and, as history tells us, he goes on the rampage, leaving terror in his wake.

Over 100 years later and the mutilated body of a woman is discovered by a lake in Sweden. At the same time, a famous actress goes missing from outside her family home in London. Initially thought to be two completely separate incidences, the services of profiler Emily Roy are called in by Scotland Yard, due to the high profile of the missing actress. As Emily Roy looks through footage and studies evidence, she starts to unearth similarities to a case now known as the Tower Hamlets murders. But the perpetrator of these crimes is now locked away in Broadmoor in a high security facility so is it a copycat??? As news filters through of the case in Sweden, Emily Roy soon finds herself back in Falkenberg again as she compares the two cases.

True-crime writer, Alexis Castells, is soon involved, as she has a personal history with the Tower Hamlets murders. Against her better judgement Alexis has to open up some wounds that have never truly healed and must face down one of her own personal demons.

Emily Roy and Alexis Castells have a very unusual relationship but it works. Together they unearth some highly distressing information as they piece together the jigsaw of this brutal crime that has disturbing comparisons to the case of Jack The Ripper all those decades previously.

Now I’m not going to lie to you here…if you are in any way squeamish this is probably not the book for you. There are scenes that some may find distressing, with no details spared. BUT if you have the stomach for it then might I add, WHAT A READ!

Keeper is evil personified. It is your worst nightmare. I mentioned in my previous review of Block 46 that Johana Gustawsson is a new voice in French Noir and she is. I’m not a fan of gore and gruesome books normally, so it is a complete testament to her writing that I keep coming back wanting more.

There are lots of characters in this book and there is lot of movement, so pay attention folks. You will need everything you got and DO NOT EAT ( just a bit of advice!).

Keeper is enthralling, gripping, compelling. It is disturbing, barbaric, savage. It is bloody brilliant….

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.