Blog Tour – September 2022 – The Bleeding – Johana Gustawsson

Well first of all – I can’t believe it’s September! The summer has sped by, mostly spent, er, reading, and while we try to wring a few more days outside, it’ll soon by time to sharpen my pencils, buy some nice new stationery – never a chore! – and get back to my Open University studies. But before the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness descends – what do we have here? Is that another beauty from Orenda I see before me?

It is indeed! And – coincidentally – this one, like Whisper Of The Seals, is also set in Quebec. It’s the beginning of a really exciting new series from the highly talented Johana Gustawsson, who’s also responsible for the fantastic Roy & Castells series. The lead character in this one is Detective Maxine Grant, single mother to a teenage girl and a newborn baby boy – their father was killed in a work-connected helicopter crash before his son’s Hugo’s birth. She’s ably supported by her sergeant, Jules, who’s a friend as well as a colleague. Their boss is the trés chic and somewhat scary Marceau, and, in this book at least, their investigation is aided by a forensic psychologist, Professor Ginette “Gina” Montminy.

So what is the investigation?

Maxine is called to a crime scene at the home of her former schoolteacher Mrs Caron, who’d asked for her by name – indeed, that’s the only words she’d uttered. Inside the large home she’d shared with her husband, Professor Philippe Caron, lies his body – butchered by his wife using a knife, attacked with it over and over again – textbook overkill. Moreover, further investigation in the house reveal some very gruesome finds.

What can possibly have pushed this devoted wife of many years to murder the husband to whom she was said by all who knew them to be devoted, and inseperable from? She is not speaking at all, despite the police officers’ best efforts – so Gina is brought in, to bring her professional opinion to bear upon the macabre finds in the household, as well as to attempt to cajole Mrs Caron into telling them what provoked her into attacking the husband with whom she allegedly had the perfect marriage.

But there are two other stories contained in this book, aren’t there, of a historical nature?

Yes – in between the chapters about the Caron case, which make up the majority of the book, there are shorter chapters set in 1899 and 1949. The 1899 storyline is about a woman, Lucienne, who’s lost her two young daughters in a horrendous house fire. She’s persuaded by an acquaintance that a medium may be able to reach them, if they are really dead – she’s hoping, however, that they somehow escaped the inferno.

The other story, set in 1949, features an elderly woman, and the unlikely friendship that develops between her and Lina, a bullied teenager, whose father had fought for the French Resistance. She does her best to help Lina get the better of the teenage girls who are making her life hell (is there anyone able to make people’s life hell more effectively than teenage girls?!)

All three stories centre upon the exact same area, and there’s a strong theme of the supernatural running through them – mediums and spiritualism (with Arthur Conan Doyle making a guest appearance), witchcraft and the abilities of women to use the dark arts to punish our enemies. It’s fascinatingly presented, and I really found it interesting and thought-provoking.

This certainly sounds like a great novel – how enjoyable was it?

To be honest (and I know I keep saying this, but every time I say it it’s true, I swear!) – I think this is the best book I’ve read so far this year. The characters came across as utterly compelling, with realistic relationships between them all. The details of each of the mysteries at the heart of the novel were released in a wonderfully slow, steady way, guaranteed to keep the reader turning the pages to keep finding out just a little bit more! (I was nudged several times to, “get the lamp off” – although not so politely!) And, unusually for a book featuring three storylines, I didn’t feel that one was more interesting than another, or that one dragged – all three held my interest equally, which is no mean feat.

This book bodes incredibly well for this new series by Gustawsson – I loved Maxine and Jules – and the refreshingly friendly and supportive relationship between them. I’m also hoping that Gina, the forensic psychologist, will be reappearing in future books. She really is a force to be reckoned with. I’m really excited about book two already!

It’s such a privilege to get the opportunity to read books from all over the world – as well, of course, as ones from the UK – brought to us by Orenda. This is yet another series I simply can’t wait to read more of (even if I will be keeping himself awake…!)

Miss this book at your peril – I absolutely adored it!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of the book, and this is an honest review,

Author Johana Gustawsson

Keep an eye on the wonderful selection of bloggers who’ll all be reviewing The Bleeding!

BLURB: 1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.
1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.

2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.
Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…

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