The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
Published in: 2019
Reviewed by: Book Worm
This ARC was provided by John Murray Press (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: It is 1793. Four years after the storming of the Bastille in France and more than a year after the death of King Gustav III of Sweden, paranoia and whispered conspiracies are Stockholm’s daily bread. A promise of violence crackles in the air as ordinary citizens feel increasingly vulnerable to the whims of those in power.
When Mickel Cardell, a crippled ex-solider and former night watchman, finds a mutilated body floating in the city’s malodorous lake, he feels compelled to give the unidentifiable man a proper burial. For 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—the handsome son of a farmer—leaves rural life for the alluring charms of the capital and ambitions of becoming a doctor. His letters to his sister chronicle his wild good times and terrible misfortunes, which lead him down a treacherous path.
In another corner of the city, a young woman—Anna-Stina—is consigned to the workhouse after she upsets her parish priest. Her unlikely escape plan takes on new urgency when a sadistic guard marks her as his next victim.
Over the course of the novel, these extraordinary characters cross paths and collide in shocking and unforgettable ways. Niklas Natt och Dag paints a deliciously dark portrait of late 18th century Stockholm, and the frightful yet fascinating reality lurking behind the powdered and painted veneer of the era.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: I read a lot of thriller/chillers so I tend to think of myself as hardened to most forms of death and torture this book proved I am not as hardened as I like to think. So take that as a warning there is graphic torture in this book.
Stockholm in 1793 is vividly bought to life in this story, the reader is shown the dark underbelly and the differences that exist between those with a family name and money and those without. The former can live how they like with no fear from the law which can be purchased given enough money. The latter must suffer the whims of those who have more than them and 1 wrong word or false accusation can doom then to a brief life of torture before the welcome release of death.
Following the discovery of a dismembered torso the book goes on to tell the story of 4 people whose stories will overlap with that of the murdered man. It is through these 4 different people that life in Stockholm is revealed in all its different forms. Along the way the reader is shown the dark side of seeking your fortune by pretending to be something you are not and getting into debt; the dangers of rejecting the advances of your betters; the slow decline into alcoholism caused by losses in the war and on a lighter note the fight for justice no matter what the cost.
The central characters all felt real and their situations were believable however some of the baddies felt stereotypical and a couple of events in the book felt like overkill to me hence the 4 star not 5 star rating. I was also puzzled by the ending yes justice was done but it was done in a way that felt out of character given what had gone before.
Who would like this? I would recommend this to those who like historical murder mysteries and have a strong stomach, did I mention there is graphic torture?
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