Publisher : Orenda
Published : 19th September 2019
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…
I was attracted to this book for a number of reasons: it’s an award winner, it’s a Nordic Noir, and of course it’s published by Orenda – a publisher synonymous with quality crime thrillers! I was not disappointed. Blood Song is the third book in the Roy and Castells series by French writer Johanna Gustawsson. I have not read either of the previous two novels (46 and Keeper) but this did not impact on my enjoyment – Gustawwson takes the time to appraise the reader of the backstory of the main characters, allowing new readers to ‘keep up.’
So what’s it all about?
Blood Song swings between London and Sweden in 2016, and then back in time to Spain when Franco’s fascist party ruled the land. This book is a fascinating, chilling and informative read which weaves together a novel about murder, fertility clinics and the abuse of all Republican’s (men, women and children) in 1930s’ Spain. I thought I knew quite a bit about the Spanish Civil War, but I was particularly shocked by the treatment of children, which I learned about in Blood Song.
In 2016, Aliénor Lindbergh is recently appointed to Scotland Yard to work alongside criminal profiler Emily Roy. Aliénor gets word that her parents and sister have been brutally murdered in their home in Sweden. She is accompanied back home by Emily Roy, along with true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to help investigate these brutal killings.
In an attempt to establish a motive for the killing, Roy and Castells, along with the Swedish authorities, begin to investigate the business dealings of the Lindbergh’s privately own IVF clinic. They uncover a link to a fertility clinic in Spain, which leads them closer to a motive for murder.
For me, the most powerful and lingering aspects of Blood Song are the social history sections based in Franco’s Spain. The focus here is on five young girls who grew up in various Catholic orphanages and institutions under the care of priests and nuns. Before the novel even begins, Johanna Gustawwson imparts some chilling facts about the cruelty meted out by the fascists, and the death toll during this time. She explains:
The acts of violence depicted in the historical chapters of this novel were inspired by actual events that have been recognised and confirmed. While these acts are certainly cruel and some may find the images hard to stomach, there has been some softening to spare sensitive readers the most brutal details and avoid these pages sinking too deeply into the misery of those times.
These historical sections ultimately weave into the contemporary narrative. Once again, I was shaking my head at the heart-breaking impact that childhood abuse has on people throughout their lives – the shame it carries, and the way it can skew minds and taint whole existences.
So who killed the Lindberghs and why is the mystery at the heart of Blood Song.
Brace yourself for a page turner which will hook you, and keep you guessing right up to the end.
I will definitely be checking out Johanna Gustawwson’s previous books, and can’t wait for the TV adaptations.
Thank you to Anne Cater for offering me a place on this Random Things Blog Tour, and to Orenda for an e-copy of the book for review purposes. Blood Song is published in paperback on 19th September, and has been beautifully translated from French by David Warriner.
About the author:
Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons. She drew on her own experience of fertility clinics and IVF to write Blood Song.