by Johana Gustawsson

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LoveReading Expert Review of Keeper

April 2018 Book of the Month

Oh wow, this is a slicing, chilling, whammy of a read that has left me reeling. In 2015 an actress is abducted, the case has all the hallmarks of a murderer who was locked up in Broadmoor ten years previously, then a body appearing to link to the abduction and murders is found in Sweden. The second in the 'Roy and Castells' series continues with sharp, fast-paced drama. I really do recommend starting at the beginning with the fabulous ‘Block 46’, you need to get to know the characters, as to try to step into the middle of the storyline would be almost impossible. The translation is spot on, at no time did I stop to consider this originated in a different language. Set in two countries, and two storylines, with one story steadily advancing through the years, I found myself on full alert and at times racing to keep up. There are sections that are so horrifyingly descriptive they are almost impossible to read, yet the story is so gripping, it is impossible not to. Johana Gustawsson delivers morsel upon morsel of information, and stomach-churning shivers raced down my body. An inkling of what is happening zipped into my thoughts, however I couldn’t have even begun to imagine the final outcome. ‘Keeper’ isn’t an easy read, it isn’t meant to be, it is thought-provoking, challenging, and an absolute knock-out…I’m still in shock - highly recommended.

Liz Robinson

Keeper Synopsis

Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper's reign of terror. London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before. Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman's body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose? Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down. Following the highly acclaimed Block 46 and guaranteed to disturb and enthral, Keeper is a breathless thriller from the new queen of French Noir.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781912374052
Publication date: 28th April 2018
Author: Johana Gustawsson
Publisher: Orenda Books
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Primary Genre Crime and Mystery
Other Genres:
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What To Read After Keeper

Blood Song
The Shadows of Men
The Assistant

Keeper Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

I can honestly say "I've never read a book like this before!”

It said on the back of the book, it was a page-turner and I can agree.

I liked the fact that the chapters were so short and had a time and place at the beginning of each.

As to the story - bloodcurdling - does not do it justice. It frightened the wits out of me, I felt like a small child again needing to hide behind the settee when Dr. Who was on the TV. I was frightened of holding the book! Would the murderer jump out of the pages and get me?

It was a quick moving story having English and Swedish detectives vying with each other to solve the crime. It was a strange case with many twists and turns. But it was solved. I have no hesitation in saying "read it for yourself "and see how you respond to this excellently written book.


Marjorie Lacy

The Keeper is a hauntingly descriptive tale with multiple side stories culminating in a unique ending, will have readers going one way, completely caught off guard by the twists that take place.

The Keeper is a hauntingly descriptive tale with multiple side stories culminating in a unique ending, will have readers going one way, completely caught off guard by the twists that take place. Johana picks the reader apart and dives into our deepest darkest nightmares, providing a true horror story and murder mystery. Detectives are dumbfounded by the similarity of murders in Sweden and London. 

There are plenty of interesting characters, Detective Karla Hansen, her husband, the criminal profiler Emily Roy, Freda, a prostitute of Swedish origin trying to make a living in 1880s Whitechapel.

This story is filled with grim tales of adultery, deception, treachery while all being presented in a way that builds very slowly but brilliantly up to a climax that will keep the reader invested from the onset. Detective Karla Hansen in Halmstad, finds the damaged corpse of a young woman. Alienor Lindbergh is a strong minded new addition to the Swedish police force, while Julianne Bell is a popular TV presenter and actress who is kidnapped outside her house in Mayfair.

The speedy introduction of so many different timelines and characters does seem a little confusing but soon links begin to appear between their various stories. Tension is high throughout and Gustawsson does a brilliant job of providing a premise relating to one of history’s most notorious serial killers, an extremely dysfunctional family through generations, and an ongoing cat-and-mouse investigation of a kidnapping into a story that sucks you in and will have you desperate for answers.



The setting is in the UK and Sweden with multi characters intrinsically linked by horrific crimes. It was gripping with twist and you wanted to piece the clues together to work out the killer.

The beginning was at a slow pace as there were so many characters and locations however once the characters were established the story began to get very exciting. Now I was trying to keep up with the constant change of setting and introduction of new character. 

I found the novel gripping, I devoured it wanting to know more.  I was trying to guess the identity of the killer by piercing the clues together and with each snippets of clues that I collected I thought I knew who the killer was until a new twist in the story, I couldn’t keep up. 

This novel is different from others as you don’t really hear much about the killer. It’s more the story of the victims and the killers childhood. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. 


Maisie Hoang

A gruesome but gripping story of abduction, murder and mutilation that will suck you in an hold your attention right to the end. Brilliant!

Keeper is a brilliant book telling a gruesome but absolutely gripping story of abduction, murder and mutilation. Initially, I admit I did find it slightly disconcerting to be constantly flitting about in time and place as the story spans from 1888 in London at the time of Jack the Ripper’s butchery to abduction and murder in the UK and Sweden in 2015, as well as reflecting on horrific slaughter in Tower Hamlets 10 years previously. There are also numerous characters to keep track of. However, many of these characters are interesting in their own right and the story is worth the effort it takes to follow it as it really does suck you in and hold your attention right to the end. I genuinely couldn’t put this book down until I had finished it!

Lynne Manton

I was blown away by the whole story of Keeper and with twist that I didn't see coming. My only regret is I didn't read Block 46, by Johana Gustawsson.

 Johana Gustawsson is a new author for me, but certainly one that I will be keeping an eye open for in future. Murders in London and Sweden lead the police back to Jack the Ripper's reign of terror. I'm not afraid to admit that I was scared of what would happen next. In London in 2015 forty-three year old actress Julianne Bell was expected at the BBC television studios for an appearance on a morning show but she never arrived. There's an atmosphere of horror when a female has been found with her flesh cut out. Scotland Yard know that Richard Hemfield had been behind bars for the Tower Hamlets crimes, he was a dangerous killer that killed several women. But chilling sequences seems to point out that Julianne could have been abducted by Richard Hemfield's accomplice or is there a copycat out there carving out parts of women's bodies. keeper has in the end characters that make you want to scream at them with one question Why? A scary thriller investigation that has quite a few twists at the end that made me gasp. Thank you LoveReading and Orenda for sending me Keeper to review.

Suzanne Marsh

Keeper is a fascinating murder story with multi layers and many characters. It certainly keeps you on your toes and you have to keep reading!

Having not read Block 46, the first book in the series, I was not familiar with the characters in this book and although this book stands successfully alone, I do feel I may have to read this now as I was hooked on this second offering! Keeper is an interesting take on the historical Jack The Ripper murders alongside murders happening in Sweden in present day.

There are so many different characters in each chapter it is difficult to keep track sometimes who is who and I found myself flicking backwards and forwards through the book to keep track. The descriptions of the setting for the historic murders was very realistic and I found myself shocked at times at the squalor that was lived in. The chapters were short with dates which was helpful as you could keep track of the switching from one era to another.

The storyline was very dark and shocking, not for the faint hearted, and although a translation, you would not know it as it has been very well done. 

All the characters both historic and modern day were realistic and described beautifully with their different quirks and descriptions.

I really liked the character Alienor who is autistic and can gather facts very quickly and efficiently, being totally focussed on the job in hand.

All in all a fascinating read that I would not have read probably without LoveReading's assistance in providing me with this to review!


Glenda Worth

A chilling and intelligent thriller.

I enjoyed this dark thriller and found it thoroughly absorbing. It is a real page turner. The plot alternates between two timelines. One being Whitechapel, 1888 at time when London is in terror of Jack the Ripper. The other being in 2015 in a different London and Falkenberg, Sweden.

In the recent time s, profiler Emily Roy and crime writer Alexis Castells look into what appears to be copycat killings: A body is found mutilated in a Swedish forest, similar to the murders of Tower Hamlets ten years before and indeed akin to the Ripper killings. Moreover,  in London, Julianne Bell is abducted in a similar case to the Tower Hamlets murders. Added to the present investigations, we see personal lives and trauma of the above characters. It makes for a well rounded novel.

What unfolds in this book is an intense and exciting thriller. The plot is very clever and well thought out, keeping the reader on his/her toes. I will definitely be looking for the first in this series: Block 46.


Rachael Anderson

A brilliant book full of twists and turns which keeps you guessing right up till the end. I found it hard to put down, desperate to find out what happens next. I would definitely recommend this book.

This is a brilliant, pacey read that i couldn’t put down. It has a complex plot which takes some concentration to keep up with, but it’s worth the effort.

It is full of twists which i never saw coming, right up to the last few pages.

The characters are believable and brilliantly constructed. I would definitely read others by the same author.


Michelle Mckernan

Those not shocked by electrifying, graphic prose will be rewarded with the weaving of multiple threads into one that illustrates how a dysfunctional past can morph into a depraved present.

With a Charles Booth-like poverty map and knife on the cover, readers would be forgiven for thinking Keeper is a(nother) book about Jack the Ripper set in the nineteenth century – it is not. It is more, as crime fiction-lovers would agree, but will equally be considered a keeper by Ripperologists. 

I say this since the Ripper casts a shadow over events in 2015 London and Falkenberg, Sweden, where, respectively, a woman has been abducted and another found dead. Both have hallmarks of the Tower Hamlets murders committed a decade earlier which in turn bore similarity to those in 1888. With the perpetrator incarcerated in Broadmoor, does this mean he has an accomplice, or is there a copycat killer? 

Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells investigate such questions and find surprising answers. The dull protagonists are assisted by Aliénor Lindberg, an autistic criminologist, who enlightens colleagues hitherto in the dark concerning Ripper’s canonical victims, specifically Swedish-born Elizabeth Stride. Of the multinational cast, Aliénor is the only multidimensional character. 

The alternating timeline, shifting locations and short (on average three-page) chapters arguably render Keeper a disjointed read (notwithstanding little being lost in translation). Yet those not shocked by electrifying, graphic prose will be rewarded with the weaving of multiple threads into one that illustrates how a dysfunctional past can morph into a depraved present.

Like Saul David’s third Zulu Hart novel, The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders, Johana Gustawsson’s second Roy and Castells book can be read as a standalone whodunit. 


Lee Ruddin

It was really easy to read with a clever plot which left you guessing until the end. 4/5

Jack the Ripper meets Nordic Noir. As a fan of Scandi crime thrillers, I was excited to read this novel. It was really easy to read with a clever plot which left you guessing until the end. 4/5



An interesting portrayal of a 2 pronged murder investigation.

This was an interesting approach to a murder mystery with unveilings all the way through about the history of the family. I found it hard to keep up with so many characters with several all blending together. This may have been down to translation. All in all a good story but just didn't grasp me as much as I'd have liked and the tenuous Jack the Ripper links seemed a real stretch.

Neil Williams

Johana Gustawsson Press Reviews

'A real page-turner ... I loved it!' Martina Cole

'A bold and audacious debut from a very talented writer. Heralds the beginning of a thrilling new series' R J Ellory

'A bold and intelligent read' Laura Wilson, Guardian

'Thought-provoking, compelling and very moving' Metro

'A terrific, original duo' The Times

'Compelling' Woman's Own

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ISBN: 9781912374052
Publication date: 28/04/2018
Format: Paperback

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About Johana Gustawsson

Born in Marseille, France, and with degrees in Law and Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in twenty 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.

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