The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Teresa witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Teresa gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016
A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.
Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells, and they soon find themselves on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer, in an investigation that takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule…
Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBooklove!
I’m delighted to share my review of Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson with you today, even though I’m pretty sure I won’t be doing it justice. It’s no secret I loved Block 46 and Keeper, I was really late to the Roy and Castells party but I’ve been a huge fan ever since listening to the first chapters of Block 46 and I didn’t think it was possible but I believe I’ve become an even bigger fan with each book.
As with the previous books, Johana has woven a tale with two very different strings: one contemporary thriller, one historical fiction. As always, the challenge is in figuring out how all the pieces fit together, how the past is tied to the present, and as always, I completely failed to see the full picture until Johana was waving it in my face.
Blood Song starts a few months after Keeper. I’m fairly certain you can read Blood Song as a standalone without getting lost, but I do think you’ll have a better understanding of the characters if you’ve read the previous books. Aliénor has been training to become a profiler under the wings of Emily Roy when the devastating news comes that her parents and sister have been murdered in their home. Those of you who have read Keeper will know that Aliénor is on the autism spectrum. Dealing with her emotions, processing them, is never easy, least of all now, in the face of this tragedy. Aliénor is portrayed with so much love and respect, I absolutely adore her and my heart bled for her. But why were her parents killed? Was it personal or did it have something to do with their IVF clinic? True-crime writer Alexis Castells, who should really be focusing on her upcoming wedding, once again joins Emily and commissioner Bergström in their investigations, which lead all the way to Spain. This part of the story is nothing short of riveting. I was caught up in the investigation right away and I was dying to know the who and why.
The historical storyline takes us to Francoist Spain in 1938. I can’t believe how little I knew about Franco and how much I’ve learned from Johana’s foreword alone. Yes, I learned about Franco in history lessons in secondary school but to my mind “el Caudillo” was on a par with Hitler. They were always named in one breath for their atrocities committed in the 1940s and somehow I never realised that Franco’s reign of terror lasted all the way into the 1970s. I also had no clue about just how atrocious his rule really was, how many people suffered in Francoist Spain, and how much. Blood Song gives those people a face, and that makes it a really tough read at times. It shows us executions, rape, prisoners practically stacked on top of each other because there just isn’t enough space for everyone, small children in orphanages drinking from puddles and toilets so they won’t die of thirst, girls whipped and abused, and all of this in the name of the leader. Heart-breaking, absolutely, but well worth it, because victims such as these have been buried in history for far too long and they deserve to be given a face. Regardless of its importance, this historical part of Blood Song is suspenseful, nerve-wracking, simply outstanding.
Like I told Johana on Twitter: I loved this story so much and I’m not even your average historical fiction lover. Somehow she makes me enjoy it, she makes it fun, although I’m not sure that’s the right word to be used in this context…
A very personal story told with so much love and kindness, despite the devastating nature of some of the events, I feel this is Johana’s best novel yet and I can’t wait to see what she’ll come up with next!
The hugest of thanks to Orenda Books for gifting me an ARC, to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite and to David Warriner for the excellent translation that allows me and so many others to enjoy Johana’s stories!