Thursday, September 28, 2017


One of my little pleasures is to be asked to moderate at a conference. I enjoy the moderating, but more so I enjoy being introduced to books I may never otherwise read.  Crimefest this year was no exception, and one of the authors on my panel was Johana Gustawsson, whose book Block 46 was one of my outstanding reads over the past year.

Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in Political science, she has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over seven million viewers in June 2015. 

Block 46, her first thriller, features two protagonists, Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, and Alexis Castells, a French true-crime writer.  The book has now been sold to fourteen countries and is published in the UK by Orenda Books. In 2016, she won the Nouvelle Plume d’Argent.  It will be published in the USA on October 1.

Johana is working on the third book in the Roy and Castells series.

Please welcome Johana Gustawsson to Murder is Everywhere.

It’s amazing how holding hands with Death can change you. Or maybe change your path.

It happened in February 2009, on the 13th.  I was a fresh and proud Londoner since a few weeks only. The morning was glorious, and I finally managed to convince myself to go for a run, when I received a phone call from my mother. With a weak but calm voice, she told me that my father had not woken up after the routine test he had undergone in the morning. Doctors were at that same moment trying to resuscitate him. I hung up, booked the first flight available to Marseille, packed quickly and rushed to the airport.

The journey felt so painfully long, with the unbearable feeling that the Grim Reaper had already spat in my mouth. Sadness was drowning me when I realised that I could not send that kind of message to my dad. I needed to be hopeful and to think of those moments we will have when he would come back to us. Because he had to be saved; my dad would be saved. 

So I decided to list mentally all the discussions we will have when I will see him. And, surprisingly, what came first to my mind was my grandfather’s deportation to Buchenwald. I felt immediately that I stepped on a broken bridge: my grandfather was never a caring one, nor was he a loving father, but whoever I was meeting in my hometown, celebrated him with passion: Simon Lagunas, war hero, resistant, one of the courageous men who liberated Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp.

Avenue Simon Lagunas à Aubagne, France
Simon Lagunas (left) with colonel  Rol Tanguy, WW2 Resistance leader
When I landed, I had a message from my mother: after forty-five minutes of cardiac massage, a nurse miraculously revived my father. We were warned that the damages could be severe and that we needed to be ready to welcome a very handicapped man. His torso was badly burned by the cardiac defibrillator, his skin seemed to have been death-kissed, but his mind was intact.

Months later, as we were seated in my parents' lounge, I told him about the thought that crossed my mind when I was flying down to see him. It took him a while to answer: “Buchenwald broke your grandfather," he finally said. "In 1945, he came back as a broken man. So… he could just be a hero… the hero who would fight against the demons that had devoured the man he once was.” 

At that moment, I felt the urge to meet my granddad. To get to know the man who died when I was 15 and who barely spoke to me. I felt the urge to fix this broken bridge.

“Would you let me write about him? About Buchenwald?” I suddenly asked.

“Sure," my father said.  "It might even mend me a bit.”

I started by reading the testimonies of the Nuremberg trials, and I immediately felt that I was entering Buchenwald side by side with my grandfather. I was dragged into the crematoriums where he worked for a while, and passed by Block 46, with its white-washed windows. And there, not only did I understand my grandfather, the man broken by the war, but I also got to meet Erich Ebner, the hero of Block 46.


Michael Stanley upcoming events:

October 12 – October 15
Bouchercon Mystery Conference
Toronto, Canada
For details see

Michael and Stanley will be on 2 panels each.
October 24
Dying to Live launch
Once Upon A Crime
604 W 26th St
Minneapolis MN 55405
(612) 870-3785
7:00pm.  Discussion and refreshments

October 25
Totally Criminal Cocktail Hour
The Dock Café
425 Nelson St E, Stillwater, MN 55082
Admission by ticket only – contact Valley Bookseller at (651) 430-3385

October 26
Mystery to Me bookstore
1863 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711
(608) 283-9332
Free registration at Eventbright or by calling the store.

October 27
Aunt Agatha’s
213 S 4th Ave # 1A, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 769-1114
Dinner and discussion.
Please contact the store beforehand for details.

October 30
Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore
7419 W. Madison Street
Forest Park, IL  60130
(708) 771-7243
7:00pm.  Discussion and refreshments

November 1
Barnes and Noble
2100 Snelling Ave, St Paul, MN 55113
(651) 639-9256
7:00pm.  Discussion
November 4
Mystery Lovers Bookshop
514 Allegheny River Blvd, Oakmont, PA 15139
(412) 828-4877
10:30am. Coffee and Crime


  1. I see from your post, Johana, that Stanley's grand praise is well earned! Thank you, and welcome to Murder is Everywhere.

  2. What a story! We did a panel together Johana at Crimefest and I bought your book, it needs to get higher on my to read book pile now. After I've done my Bouchercon homework....

  3. I'm also looking forward to reading the book. As Caro says, it needs to move up the order now!