editor's choice



In a year of extraordinarily good crime fiction, much of which has been published by small or independent presses, Orenda does it again, hitting the mark with Johana Gustawsson’s excellent novel, Keeper.

Canadian profiler Emily Roy and French writer Alexis Castells, introduced to audiences in the critically acclaimed Block 46, get a second outing in a plot that moves between late nineteenth-century London and Sweden and London in 2015. The somewhat seamless transitions between time and location are all credit to the author’s writing.

That said, more than a nod is due to the faultless translation of crime master Maxim Jakubowski. At no point are we jolted away from Gustawsson’s mesmerising storyline by awkward language or phrasing – and that’s no mean feat under normal circumstances, let alone when you’re trying to make characters, who themselves aren’t native English speakers, appear authentic.

It’s the multi-layering of plot that helps make Keeper so gripping. We are given a huge amount of detail about the characters, locations, crimes, different periods, even, essentially in what are fragments. We can imagine the kind of people the Bells are, their lifestyle and mores, from their meticulously described home in Mayfair, the kind that would have ‘an imposing sofa’ with ‘artfully arranged’, ‘bright orange velvet cushions completed with a matching Hermès throw’, just as well as we can evoke the type of crime scene that would make the breath of a rookie Swedish cop ‘stink’ of vomit. It’s this kind of focus that makes the book stand out.

It’s not my intention to give away the plot – quite frankly, everyone should read it – so, suffice it to say, Keeper is yet another fine example of modern crime fiction at it’s best. And, that’s not just in translation.

Keeper is also a huge credit to the type of publishing that’s evolved in recent times, which allows such books and, indeed, much of the fiction found on indie publisher or small imprint lists, to reach more than niche audiences. Possibly even just a few years ago, this type of fiction would have been considered uncommercial and therefore unpublishable. It’s a time of shifting sands. And, thank god for that.


Johanna Gustawsson’s Keeper • Orenda • 30 April 2018 • paperback original • £8.99


Music to read to: ‘Fade into you‘, Mazzy Star; ‘La femme d’Argent‘, Air; ‘Glory Box‘, Portishead; ‘Teardrop‘, Massive Attack and, indeed, anything from the albums on which these songs feature, particularly Mezzanine.


Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the Keeper book blog tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater for arranging it and to the publisher, Karen Sullivan, for kindly supplying a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are our own. Apologies that circumstances have meant publishing this later than anticipated. Quoted text p. 45 © Bragelonne 2017; English translation © Maxim Jakubowski 2017. Image reading on location © The Literary Shed 2018.


Also of interest: Teresa Solana’s darkly funny Catalan noir – women in translation‘; ‘Elder’s last stand – John Harvey’s Body and Soul;Black Water – an entrée into Dublin’s underworld‘; ‘The Outer Circle – a tale of our times’; ‘Leigh Russell’s Geraldine Steel – you just can’t keep a good woman down’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir’; ‘Finlay’s last stand – Matt Johnson’s End Game’; ‘We should all be feminists’; ‘Jane Harper’s stylish debut – The Dry’; ‘Mallory an old-style hero – It Happens in the Dark by Carol O’Connell’; ‘The long road – John Fairfax’s Summary Justice‘; ‘Nora Roberts’ Come Sundown – a tale of strong women’; How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original Penguin Ten’; ‘Book covers we love – Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday’.


This review is © 2018 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.