“The Alienist set in eighteenth-century Stockholm: Brawny, bloody, intricate, enthralling—and the best historical thriller I’ve read in twenty years.” —A.J. Finn, #1 bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
“Thrilling, unnerving, clever, and beautiful.” —Fredrik Backman, #1 bestselling author of A Man Called Ove
“Chilling and thought-provoking. Relentless, well-written, and nearly impossible to put down.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
One morning in the autumn of 1793, watchman Mikel Cardell is awakened from his drunken slumber with reports of a body seen floating in the Larder, once a pristine lake on Stockholm’s Southern Isle, now a rancid bog. Efforts to identify the bizarrely mutilated corpse are entrusted to incorruptible lawyer Cecil Winge, who enlists Cardell’s help to solve the case. But time is short: Winge’s health is failing, the monarchy is in shambles, and whispered conspiracies and paranoia abound.
Winge and Cardell become immersed in a brutal world of guttersnipes and thieves, mercenaries and madams. From a farmer’s son who is lead down a treacherous path when he seeks his fortune in the capital to an orphan girl consigned to the workhouse by a pitiless parish priest, their investigation peels back layer upon layer of the city’s labyrinthine society. The rich and the poor, the pious and the fallen, the living and the dead—all collide and interconnect with the body pulled from the lake.
Breathtakingly bold and intricately constructed, The Wolf and the Watchman brings to life the crowded streets, gilded palaces, and dark corners of late-eighteenth-century Stockholm, offering a startling vision of the crimes we commit in the name of justice, and the sacrifices we make in order to survive.
|Publisher:||Washington Square Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Niklas Natt och Dag (“Night and Day”) is a member of the oldest surviving noble family in Sweden. He enjoys playing the guitar, mandolin, violin, and the Japanese bamboo flute. The Wolf and the Watchman, his first novel, was named the Best Debut of 2017 by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers and is being published in thirty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and their two sons.
Read an Excerpt
The Wolf and the Watchman – 1 –
“Mickel! Watchman Mickel! Please wake up!”
As an agitated shaking rouses Cardell from his slumber, he feels a fleeting ache in the left arm he no longer owns. A carved wooden arm has taken the place of the missing limb. His stump rests in a hollow space inside the beechwood, attached at the elbow with the aid of leather straps. They are cutting into his flesh. He should know better by now and have loosened them before nodding off.
Reluctantly, he opens his eyes and stares out across the vast plain of the stained table. When he makes an attempt to lift his head, his cheek sticks to the wooden surface and he inadvertently pulls his wig off as he stands up. He curses and uses it to wipe his brow before tucking it inside his jacket. His hat rolls down onto the floor, its crown dented. He punches it out and then pulls it onto his head. His memory is beginning to return. He is at Cellar Hamburg and must have drunk himself senseless. A glance over his shoulder reveals others in a similar condition. The few drunks that the proprietor considered affluent enough not to toss into the gutter are sprawled over benches and across tables, until the morning, when they will stagger away to receive the reproaches of those waiting at home. Not so for Cardell. A crippled war veteran, he lives alone and his time is no one’s but his own.
“Mickel, you’ve got to come! There’s a dead body in the Larder!”
The two youngsters who have roused him are guttersnipes. Their faces look familiar but he is unable to recall their names. Behind them stands the Ram, the well-nourished manager who works for Widow Norström, the owner. The Ram is groggy and flushed and has positioned himself between the children and a collection of etched glass: the pride of the cellar, stored behind lock and key in a blue cabinet.
The condemned stop here at Cellar Hamburg on their way to the Sconce Tollgate and to the gallows beyond. At the steps of the Hamburg they are served their last drink, after which the glass is carefully retrieved, etched with name and date, and added to the collection. The patrons may drink from one of these only under supervision and upon payment of a fee based on the degree of infamy of the condemned. It is said to bring good fortune. Cardell has never understood the reasoning.
Cardell rubs his eyes and realizes he is still inebriated. His voice is thick when he tries it.
“What the devil is going on?”
It is the older one—a girl—who answers. The boy is harelipped, and her brother, to judge by his features. He wrinkles his nose at Cardell’s breath and takes cover behind his sister.
“There is a body in the water, right at the edge.”
Her tone is a blend of terror and excitement. The veins in Cardell’s forehead feel close to bursting. The pounding of his heart threatens to drown out what feeble thoughts he tries to muster.
“How’s this my problem?”
“Please, Mickel, there isn’t anyone else and we knew that you were here.”
He rubs his temples in a vain hope of easing the throbbing pain.
Above the Southern Isle, the skies have not yet begun to lighten. Cardell staggers out and down the steps of the Hamburg and follows the children along the empty street, halfheartedly listening to a story about a thirsty cow that reared up at the water’s edge and took off in terror in the direction of Danto.
“Her muzzle touched the body and made it spin in a circle.”
Underfoot the stones give way to mud as they get closer to the lake. Cardell’s duties have not carried him past the shores of the Larder in a long time, but he sees that nothing has changed. Nothing has come of the long-held plans to clean the shoreline and build a quay with piers, though this is hardly any cause of wonder when both city and state teeter on the brink of ruin. The fine houses around the lake have long since been repurposed into manufactories. The workshops throw their waste directly into the water, and the fenced section intended for human waste is overflowing and ignored by most. Cardell lets out a colorful phrase when his bootheel ploughs a furrow in the muck and he has to flap his healthy arm to maintain his balance.
“Your cow was frightened by an encounter with an overripe cousin. The butchers throw their scraps into the lake. You’ve woken me up for nothing more than a rancid side of beef or some pig’s rib cage.”
“We saw a face in the water, a person’s face.”
The waves lap against the shore, churning up a pale yellow froth. Something rotten—a dark lump—is floating a few meters out. Cardell’s first thought is that it cannot possibly be a human being. It is too small.
“Like I said, it’s butcher’s scraps. An animal carcass.”
The girl insists she is not mistaken. The boy nods in agreement. Cardell snorts in surrender.
“I’m drunk, you hear? Dead drunk. Soused. You’ll not forget this when someone asks about the time you tricked the watchman into taking a dip in the Larder and how he gave you both the thrashing of your lives when he came up again, soaked and enraged.”
He works his way out of his coat with the awkwardness of the one-handed. The forgotten woollen wig falls out of the lining, into the slush. Never mind. The miserable thing only cost a pittance and the fashion is on its way out. He wears it only because a more proper appearance improves the chances that someone will stand a war veteran a drink or two. Cardell casts a glance at the sky. High above, a band of distant stars shine over Årsta Bay. He closes his eyes to seal the impression of beauty inside him and steps into the lake, right leg first.
The boggy edge doesn’t support his weight. He sinks down as far as his knee and feels the lake water pouring over the edge of his boot, which remains stuck in the sludge as his involuntary fall forwards pulls his leg along. With something between a crawl and a doggy-paddle, he begins to make his way farther out. The water is thick between his fingers, full of things that even the residents of the Southern Isle don’t consider worth keeping.
His intoxication has impaired his sense of judgment. He feels a stab of panic when he no longer has the lake bottom under his feet. This water is deeper than anticipated and he finds himself back at Svensksund three years ago, terrified and tossed by the waves, with the Swedish front drawing back.
He grasps the body in the water once his kicking has carried him close enough. His first thought is that he was correct. This cannot be a human being. It is a discarded carcass, tossed here by the butcher’s boys, made into a buoy as the gases of decomposition expand its innards. Then the lump rolls over and shows him its face.
It isn’t rotten at all, and yet empty eye sockets stare back at him. Behind the torn lips there are no teeth. The hair alone has retained its luster—the night and the lake have done their best to dim its color, but it is without a doubt a mass of light blond hair. Cardell’s sudden intake of breath fills his mouth with water and causes him to choke.
When his coughing fit has subsided, he floats motionless next to the corpse, studying its ravaged features. Back on the shore, the children make no sound. They await his return in silence. He grabs the body, turns around in the water, and starts to kick with his bare foot to make his way back towards land.
The recovery effort becomes more laborious when he reaches the muddy embankment and the water no longer carries their weight. Cardell rolls over onto his back and kicks his way up with both legs, dragging his quarry by its ragged covering. The children do not help him. Instead, they back away cowering, holding their noses. Cardell clears his throat of the filthy pond water and spits into the mud.
“Run to the Lock and tell the Corpses.”
The children make no move to comply, as eager to keep their distance as they are to get a glimpse of Cardell’s catch. Only when he tosses a handful of muck at them do they set off.
“Run to the night post and get me a fucking bluecoat, damn it!”
When their small feet are out of earshot, he leans over to the side and vomits. Stillness descends, and in his isolation, Cardell feels a cold embrace pressing all air out of his lungs, making it impossible to draw the next breath. His heart beats faster and faster, the blood throbs in the veins in his throat, and he is overcome with a paralyzing fear. He knows all too well what comes next. He feels the arm that is no longer his solidify out of the surrounding darkness until every part of his being tells him it is back where it once was, and with it a pain searing enough to cancel the world itself out, as a jaw with teeth of iron gnaws flesh, bone, and gristle.
In a state of panic, he tears at the leather straps and lets the wooden arm fall into the mud. He grabs his stump with his right hand and massages the scarred flesh to force his senses to accept that the arm they perceive no longer exists and that the wound is long since healed.
The seizure lasts no more than a minute. Breath returns, first in shallow gasps and then in calmer, slower inhalations. The terror subsides and the world regains its familiar contours. These sudden panic attacks have plagued him for the past three years, ever since he returned from the war, one arm and one friend poorer. And yet that was all a long time ago now. He thought he had found a method to keep the nightmares at bay. Strong drink and bar brawls. Cardell looks around, as if for something to soothe himself with, but he and the corpse are alone. He sways side to side holding his stump in a firm grasp.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Wolf and the Watchman includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The epigraph of The Wolf and the Watchman was written in 1793, the same year that the book takes place, and reads, “Guile begets guile, violence begets violence.” What is your interpretation of this quote and how does it set the mood for the story that follows?
2. The book’s events take place at the dawn of the Romantic Age, a period known for its emphasis on emotions, originality, and individuality in art, seen by many historians as a response to the rationalism of the Age of Enlightenment that proceeded it. How does Natt och Dag’s portrait of Stockholm in 1793 support or conflict with these common characterizations of this era? Are the seeds of romanticism evident in The Wolf and the Watchman?
3. In 1789, four years prior to the book’s events, the storming of the Bastille marked the beginning of the end of the French monarchy. In 1792, a year before the events of the book take place, the King of Sweden—Gustav III—was assassinated. How is the political tumult throughout Europe reflected in the system of justice Winge must navigate in his investigation? Does the instability abroad make itself felt in Stockholm? If so, how?
4. How do Cecil Winge and Mikel Cardell display their very different personalities? What unites them in their search for the unknown man’s killer? Do you think they have different motivations for finding the killer?
5. We discover that Winge has estranged himself from his wife. But is this because of his illness or her infidelity? Are the two connected? Do you think he is correct to push her away so that she doesn’t have to see him die? Do you think this action is selfish or selfless?
6. Following a clue, Winge speaks with a cloth merchant who brings up the ancient Roman playwright Plautus’s phrase, homo homini lupus est, which in one translation reads, “Like a wolf is man to other men.” The wolf was the symbol of the Roman Empire. Wolves are pack animals, admired for their loyalty and power, but also seen as predators and deceivers. How does this idea frame the conversation Winge is having about the nature of humanity?
7. Kristofer Blix is only seventeen yet has already done military service and seen brutality in the Russo-Swedish War. How do you think this experience effects his choices when he arrives in Stockholm?
8. In Part Three we meet Anna Stina, a young woman who is faced with a number of harrowing decisions. To what extent do you think Anna Stina has options, and to what extent is she a hostage to other people’s actions? Do you think it is important to act in a morally correct manner even if the consequences of those actions are personally devastating?
9. Over the course of the book, we encounter several different men who are called “Watchmen,” who have the authority to protect the city’s residents. What can people like Anna Stina do when their would-be protectors turn out to be their oppressors? Do you see any parallels between her situation and the modern-day conversation around police brutality and corruption?
10. At the end of the novel, Winge makes a decision to lie in order to achieve his goal of serving justice. Do you think Winge has undercut the truth and morality he stands for by doing so? Do his means justify the ends, or has he made himself part of the machinery of the corrupt society he detests? 10.
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Reviews of The Wolf and the Watchman have compared it to Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Patrik Suskin’s Perfume. What do you think it shares with these and other great historical novels? Are there any other books that you would recommend to your book club that are similar to The Wolf and the Watchman?
2. The “modern” Swedish Smorgasbord originated in the 1700s as an upper-class tradition of a spread of appetizers and drinks before dinner. Visit https://sweden.se/collection/classic-swedish-food/ to find delicious Swedish meals to make for your book club, and enjoy all the cheeses, breads, herring, potatoes, and meatballs that Sweden has to offer.
3. This is a novel full of atmosphere and period detail. What do you think are the most interesting moments in the book, visually, that you would like to see on the big screen? Are there parts that you think might be too gruesome for the screen? What kind of music would you select for the film?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was an extraordinary historical murder mystery featuring a detailed setting, characters that felt real, and an unpredictable, meticulous plot. If you loved “The Alienist” but felt that it wasn’t quite dark and gruesome enough (who are you, you twisted, morbid freak?) then this book is for you. I’m not judging because I absolutely loved this book. The gritty historical setting was extremely immersive and late 18th century Stockholm was brought to life in all its filthy, depraved and brutal glory. The story weaves together several disparate narrators whose stories coalesce into a complex murder mystery. I felt especially attached to Anna who was so relatable and brave. As usual throughout history women, especially poor women, were treated horribly. With no one to protect her Anna was at the mercy of men who had no mercy. Her storyline affected me the most deeply. I did really love Winge and Cardell and their dynamic. This could have been the start of an amazing series featuring these two but due to circumstances revealed early on this isn’t meant to be. Although I may not get more Winge and Cardell I will be eagerly awaiting the next book by this author. I read through this one in a day and a half and I am left hungry for more. Whatever Niklas Natt och Dag writes next I will be first in line. Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Atria Books for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review
A sick and suspenseful murder mystery, where the actual murder isn’t the most disturbing part in the least. As clues are uncovered and psychological madness revealed, the depths of the victim’s depravity continues to sink. This is not for the faint of heart. It may even take a little courage to continue reading, but Niklas’ richly portrayed characters and plot will keep you thinking and will tap you awake at night, cowering at the crimes committed. Wolves as monsters wear many faces, and as motives are revealed, so too is the heart of these characters. *I received an arc from the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review
I was thoroughly absorbed in this grisly and cringe worthy historical mystery set in Stockholm in 1793. When a mutilated body washes ashore Mickell Cardell a former night watchman and Cecil Winge a lawyer are set on a path to try and find out the identity of the body and who killed him. This was a remarkable story and well thought out with a satisfying conclusion. Parts of the book are graphic and depraved but it is well worth reading and I enjoyed it immensely. Highly recommend!!!!!
The Wolf and the Watchman is Niklas Natt och Dags's debut novel. It was named the Best Debut of 2017 by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers and is being published in thirty countries. 1793 Stockholm. Mikel Cardell is a watchman, though he rarely performs his duties. He's woken from a drunken stupor one night when two children find a body floating in a local lake. Cardell drags what is left of the body out. The corpse has been brutally and strangely mutilated. The 'incorruptible' lawyer Cecil Winge is tasked with identifying what's left of the body. His health is tenuous and time is of the essence, so he asks Cardell to assist him. I was hooked from the first pages. Cardell is perfectly drawn - a strong personality but flawed, tenacious, intelligent, quick with his fists but kind and more. Winge also sprang to life for me - his measured pace of thinking and acting is the opposite of Cardell. He's clever but lacks the brutality of Cardell. The two make the perfect team. I went into the book expecting a mystery - but Niklas Natt och Dag takes his story places I hadn't expected. There are four parts to the story. The body is identified, but then the narrative switches to the person responsible and again to another person named Anna-Stina. I couldn't fathom how her narrative would figure into the murder. And finally the pieces are fit together in the end. Niklas Natt och Dag's plotting is brilliantly complex - and such a treat to listen to. Human nature, relationships and what we'll do to survive is also explored alongside the mystery. The backdrop of 1793 Stockholm is so richly described - I could picture the filthy streets, the workhouses, the wealthy clubs and mansions, the pubs and more as I listened. I did choose to listen to The Wolf and the Watchman. There were multiple readers which I really enjoy. Matt Addis, Casper Rundegren and Clara Andersson. The voice for Cardell is wonderful - rich and full with a gravelly tone. It matched the mental image I had created. The voice for Winge matches the character as well, more thoughtful and measured. Both were clear and easy to understand. The voice for the perpetrator was younger sounding. I found the sibilant esses used for the Swedish accent to be a bit annoying after awhile. The voice for Anna-Stina was just right as well - a younger tone that captured her desperate plight, but also her strength. This reader spoke cleanly and was easily understood. I always feel more immersed in a book when I listen to it. And this was most definitely the case with The Wolf and the Watchman. Those who enjoy Swedish noir steeped in historical fiction will enjoy this book. A caveat for gentle readers - the crime is somewhat gruesome. But the writing is excellent.
This book is not for the faint of heart and so I'll offer a disclosure as you would get before a particularly intense television show: "Contains graphic violence, coarse language, and mature subject matter. Reader discretion is advised." It is a gritty historical mystery that digs deep into the seedy underbelly of Stockholm in the late 1700s. The author did a remarkable job of rendering my fantasies of historical living to smithereens - this is not your ballgowns and debutantes class of historical fiction. While I found some of the translation stilted, overall I was gripped by the entire tale start to finish (even though I felt like I needed a bath when I was done.) Intense and remarkably descriptive, I could see and smell everything presented on the page. I was at once repulsed and intrigued. The chapters were rife with the grisly descent of human nature at its most destitute while corruption, poverty, and illicit subterfuge were threaded deep within. I wouldn't say it's a tale for every reader and I wouldn't say it was a book I loved, but it was attention-grabbing, and so well done. I was provided with a copy of this title to review via Netgalley with thanks to the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
I honestly didn't care for this book. Why did I finish?! Probably because the writing didn't make me cringe [though much of the story did] and because it had high ratings--I thought at some point my opinion might change. NOT. The setting: 18th century Stockholm and surrounds--what often held my interest. "...Mickel Cardell, a crippled ex-solider and former night watchman, finds a mutilated body floating in the city’s malodorous lake..." "...Cecil Winge, a brilliant lawyer turned consulting detective to the Stockholm police, a body with no arms, legs, or eyes is a formidable puzzle and one last chance to set things right before he loses his battle to consumption. Together, Winge and Cardell scour Stockholm to discover the body’s identity, encountering the sordid underbelly of the city’s elite. Meanwhile, Kristofer Blix..." And lastly, "...a young woman—Anna Stina—is consigned to the workhouse after she upsets her parish priest." And many more characters, mostly despicable. Gruesome, bleak, dark, grim, graphic, flat. And more of that. Some tidbits of interesting details of time and place--but not nearly enough to make this book a Goodread. And, who knew: "The fingers and hand of an executed criminal bring good luck--the thumb in particular promises protection from the law when a theft is undertaken..." As well as "When someone is knighted, skilled penmen from the Royal Academy of Letters create the heraldry. They select emblems with a connection to the person's life and work." [This has great bearing in the latter part of the novel.] A few good images NOT gruesome: "...he imagines the man attracts violence like a magnet draws iron shavings..." "Pettersson points at her with a hand that is as large as a smoken ham." Not for me compelling and page-turning--as noted by many--who are these readers?!
This story was a true adventure for me. Before reading this book, I knew very little about the history of Sweden, or even how much the impact the French Revolution had on other European countries. In The Wolf and the Watchman the reader is given a picture of a truly heinous murder in a gritty grimy setting. This is not the stuff of fairy tales, this is a tale of people living in poverty, struggling to find their way to their next drink and their next day, of prostitution, graft and double crossing, and of two men determined to find the truth behind the murder before time runs out for them. It took a few chapters for me to get into the rhythm of the writing and to get a feel for the setting and characters, but then it flowed very well. I highly recommend the book, with the note that it is not for the light of heart, the murder and the descriptions of life in the 1700’s are presented very graphically. Thank you to NetGalley and Atria publishing for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.
I think this might be another "this wasn't for me but others might like it" book. I just could not get into the story or connect with the characters. I found myself just wanting to finish.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for a digital ARC of this book. The following is my honest review: 1793 Stockholm is a dark and dreary place to be. Turmoil is all around and there is no shortage of crime. Told in four parts, The Wolf and the Watchman seamlessly pulls together the individual stories of three people and the devastating results of what happens when people are forced into positions from which they cannot escape. Mickel Cardell, a former watchman, is called to a body of water to pull out human remains. He believes that there must be mistake. Surely, what he sees in the water cannot be a human form. The gruesome discovery he makes when he pulls the body to land shakes him to the core. He, along with Cecil Winge, a lawyer and consulting detective for the Stockholm police department, make it their mission to learn the true identity of the deceased and the person responsible for the gruesome murder. Winge, suffering from consumption, has limited time and a desparate need to make things right. It took me a little while to get into this book. I felt like it was laden with details, some vital to the story and others not as much. If you like your stories to be very descriptive, you may really appreciate this book. Natt ohh Dag does a phenomenal job painting a picture of the time period the story occurs in, as well as the details of the various settings where parts of the narratives take place. The plot is gripping and pulled me in. I was quite curious as to why the person murdered was treated so cruelly and who was responsible. At first I was uncertain as to how the various parts of the book would tie together, but I must admit the author did a great job pulling the story into a cohesive tale and left no questions unanswered. As a warning, I must say that there are scenes that are quite gruesome. While I believe the violence was not gratuitous, certain parts were difficult to read and imagine. It's really hard to fit this book neatly into any specific genre. I would recommend it to any reader who enjoys nordic noir, psychological suspense, and even historical fiction. I look forward to reading future works by this author.
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery set in Stockholm in 1793, and most especially the way the story unfolds, drawing new characters in, and adding associations that unite them. The murder details are graphic, horrific and gruesome, so the book won't be for everyone. The main characters are very well drawn, both good and evil, and the vivid details of the society and setting plunk the reader right in the middle of the malodorous streets. Be so grateful you didn't live in those times! Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with an arc via NetGalley for an honest review. I am hoping least one or two of these interesting characters will carry on in future books.
Set in 18th century Sweden, parallel to the French Revolution/Reign of Terror, The Wolf and the Watchman is a historical murder mystery, and oh, what a grisly murder it is! The author sets the scene in exquisite detail, richly describing the stench, squalor, misery and hope of a barely surviving working class. Through the vivid descriptions, readers can feel the bleakness of the era an experience the dampness invading their bones. Characters and scenes are artistically painted as the author exquisitely links separate story lines to create the completion of the puzzle. He has us rooting for each and every character as no one is without struggle nor unworthy of some redemption. The interleaving of the stories is expertly crafted and every gory detail of life and death is explicitly and richly described….possibly to excess for some tastes. This is a book you can’t put down. Resolution of the strife of each character and their relation to the resolution of the murder makes this a gripping read. In addition to this well crafted tension, what kept me going was sheer hope that some level of happiness would find each of these poor souls. While the conditions as depicted can be very depressing, the perseverance of each victim, each in their own way, delivers a poignant testament to the depth of the human spirit. 4.5 stars
The Wolf and the Watchman is a gruesome, chilling, ugly, bizarre and perplexing historical thriller. It was too gruesome and way too explicit for my taste. Each character was bizarre and barbaric and their actions were described in extremely grisly, gory detail. I pushed through to the end only because this was a free ARC from Netgalley and I wanted to follow through with my review. Otherwise I would have put this one down long before the ending.
In chaos theory, there is something called the butterfly effect. The idea is that one small action can greatly affect the outcome of a later, seemingly unrelated event. This novel is full of little moments that show how one person’s decision can permanently alter the lives of others. The year is 1793 & Stockholm is a city on edge. Rebellion by lower classes in countries such as France have made the Swedish elite a tad nervous, especially after the murder of King Gustav III. This is the backdrop for a story of 4 people living separate lives until a single event causes their paths to cross. All it takes is the discovery of a mutilated body. Mickel Cardell returned from the war with shattered nerves & one less arm. Now he’s a watchman….when he can be bothered to get up off his barstool. That’s where 2 youngsters find him one night with news of a floater in the lake. But the body Mickel “rescues” is not exactly what he expected. In fact, it’s not even really a body. Just a torso….no arms, no legs. Cecil Winge is a lawyer who works as a consultant with the Swedish police. He’s an intelligent & private man who has fought for progressive changes to the legal system. He’s also dying from consumption. So it’s no wonder he feels a sense of urgency about his latest case….to give a name to the unidentified torso & find a killer. Kristofer Blix is a handsome farm boy who heads to Stockholm with dreams of becoming a doctor. He soon realizes how unprepared he is for life in the big city but could never have imagined where it will lead. Anna-Stina’s young life has been full of poverty & struggle. And it’s about to get worse. If she wants something better she’ll have to be brave, smart & resourceful. Thankfully, she has those things in spades. At its heart this is an engrossing murder investigation but as we meet & get to know the 4 MC’s, it becomes so much more. Their personal stories add depth & guarantee you become as invested in them as you are in solving the mystery surrounding the torso. The historical setting, political situation, class system & living conditions are so well rendered that sometimes it feels all too real. I finished this a while ago & have been struggling to write a review that does it justice. Even the rating was a challenge. If I look at it purely as entertainment, I can’t say I enjoyed every part. There are passages that are difficult, even revolting to read. But here’s the thing. Life for many people at that time WAS difficult & revolting to our modern sensibilities. It was about survival. And the reason you feel these emotions so keenly is all down to the author’s skills as a story teller. He has an extraordinary ability to write prose that completely envelops you. You feel everything as you follow these characters. Fear, anger, frustration, grief & scattered glimmers of hope. All your senses are engaged. Yes, there are scenes that made me want to look away but I couldn’t. I cared deeply for these people & carried the book with me to read every chance I got. Soooo…by now you probably figured out this will not be found under “Cozies”. Sometimes when I’m asked about my last couple of reads, I struggle to remember names & plot details. This is a visceral & haunting story that has stayed with me. The ability to transport a reader to another time & place is a gift & I look forward to the author’s next book. But maybe I’ll have a wee beverage before cracking the cover
When a mutilated body is fished from the highly polluted waters of Larder Lake by Mickel Cardell, one of Stockholm’s Watchmen, Police Chief Norlin knows just the man to put on the case. Cecil Winge has assisted the police over the years, and there is no one better at seeing that justice is served. Exquisite storytelling by a debut author. A crime solving duo akin to Holmes and Watson. Set in the world of 1790s Sweden, the author’s descriptions of its sights, sounds and smells bring it to life right before your eyes. I found parts of the story to be gruesome quite honestly, yet I was still thoroughly engrossed in this excellent story. This novel has it all; terrific characters, an engaging plot, atmospheric setting and a surprise ending. I think it would be fabulous read aloud in audio format. An outstanding novel that I unreservedly recommend.
1793 Stockholm, and Watchman Mickel Cardell is summoned to Larder Lake where children believe there is a body. The discover of the mutilated body compels Cecil Winge, a consulting detective to discover his history and thereby his name. Elsewhere various characters become involved in this search. A dark story trawling through Stockholms' underclass resulting in an interesting if gruesome mystery with engaging characters.