The Wolf and the Watchman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

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.
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The Wolf And The Watchman takes place in the late 1700’s in and around Stockholm, Sweden. The tale begins with Mickel Cardell, a washed up watchman, who spends the majority of his spare time drinking or being drunk. He is awakened from a drunk stupor by some neighborhood children who start telling him about a body floating in the water. Thinking that the children have confused a large livestock animal for a human corpse, he is not prepared to find a mutilated corpse in the water. When the body is pulled from the river, the head of the police, puts Cecil Winge in charge of the investigation. Cecil is a determined investigator with a knack for finding the truth. Cecil has been struggling with Consumption for sometime, and is greatly weakened physically. He enlists the help of Mickel Cardell in seeking the identity of the victim and the identity of the person who put him there. They are working on borrowed time as Cecil’s health deteriorates and a bitter political feud within the corrupted police department threatens to end their investigation at any moment. The story is told in chapters the highlight the role of the investigators, the perpetrators, and an innocent girl named Anna Stina. The story unfolds to reveal the role each plays in the tale. The story is ripe with detail, and written in an authentic Middle Ages style. The story flows easily and is easy to read and understand. Novel should appeal to fans of the Alienist. A recommended read.
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Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and write an honest review.

This is a historical novel of murder from the late 1700s in Stockholm.
Cecil Winge, the lawyer investigating, teams up with Mickel Cardell, the watchman that dragged the mutilated body from the polluted lake.
They attempt to solve the murder. Early in the book they learn how the body came to be in the lake. The information they pursue is the name of the victim and the reason for his mutilation. This takes them to some undesirable sites within the city. They meet some seedy characters both rich and poverty stricken. The middle section of the book relates the story of a woman that actually has very little to do with the rest of the book and its characters.
However, it adds more detail to the picture of what Europe must have been like at that time, filled with pollution, disease, poverty.

The author’s writing style is very readable. The characters are interesting and the author approaches the murder investigation from a new angle.
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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!!!!!
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This was a real dazzler of a read, at least for me. Eighteenth century Sweden is a fascinating place as described by the author. I love reading about this era! The author also uses great skill in creating an amazing cast of characters. Each is interesting and drew me into the book. This being a mystery, there is also an intriguing and multilayered plot that kept me focused and guessing. Each revealing fact was lain out just so and spectacular in detail and imagination. My only criticism is the vast number of characters that occasionally had me reviewing pages already read to remember them. There are some crude moments, and I would warn the squeamish reader to be prepared. Such was life in the 1700’s!
This one comes highly recommended for fans of Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It has a spellbinding plot and wonderful prose.
My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read and review this title.
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I heard such great things about this novel, but unfortunately it just wasn't for me. I had a hard time connecting with the writing style and I wasn't crazy about the characters. I had to give up after about 200 pages. Thank you Atria and Netgalley for sending this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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Wow! The Wolf and the Watchman is the most engrossing novel I’ve read in a while. I want to tell you that you should read it and you should, but only if you like historical mysteries and don’t mind some gruesomeness and brutality. It is not for everyone; it’s dark and disturbing and if it was a movie I would have had to cover my eyes. It’s also brilliant and I loved it.

Stockholm in 1793 seems a terrible place to live unless you’re rich. Crime, sickness, poverty, filth, corruption, rape, and death. Against this backdrop, two men with little to lose are on the hunt for a killer. Mikel Cardell, a former soldier with no family, no friends, one arm, and little money, pulls the mutilated body of a young dead man out of the lake. Cecil Winge, dying of consumption, takes the case in his position as consulting detective for the Stockholm police. Winge and Cardell are both interesting in their own rights. Both have tragic backstories, but the sense of duty to the dead man binds them together. As a team, they work well together, Winge is clearly the brains and Cardell the brawn, but each has his moment(s) to take on the other’s role.

In other parts of the city, Kristofer Blix wants to train as a surgeon but needs to make money in the meantime, and Anna-Stina has been confined to a workhouse run by a sadistic man, falsely accused of being a prostitute. The lives of these two will intersect with Winge and Cardell’s in surprising ways. The characters are gritty and believable, even if some, not the main four but others, are just terrible people. I found myself cringing several times, in fear for the people I liked, in disgust at what people can do to each other.

The plot twists and turns, and then it all pulls together in the end and every little thing along the has mattered. The author does an amazing job of pulling you in. It’s vivid and ugly and beautiful and fabulous.
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This book was a great historical fiction read. I read a lot of thrillers and sometimes I need a break. This book transported me to a different era, while keeping the thriller feel close in tow. I would highly recommend this book.
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Following a night of heavy drinking, one-armed night watchman Mikel Cardell is rousted to fish a limb-less body from a putrid Stockholm lake. Set in 1793, The Wolf and the Watchman pairs Cardell with incorruptible investigator Cecil Winge, who is on the verge of death from consumption.

The investigation quickly leads through the dangerous underworld of Stockholm to the possibly more treacherous secret world of the ruling noble families. But Winge is not swayed by intimidation, due to his pending death, and refuses to back down from either ruffians or the wealthy.

The Wolf and the Watchman (digital galley, Simon and Schuster) is an engrossing detective story that brings to life a faraway time and place. The historical setting and the story’s many memorable characters add a rich depth to Niklas Natt och Dag’s first novel.
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To say I liked or enjoyed this seems wrong. It is graphic and brutal in its depravity. It is also well-written and compelling. Many, many times I wanted to bail because of the explicit violence, but I needed to know what happened. This is an impressive debut, but I don’t think I could stomach another book by this author.
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DEEP and DARK -  In 18th century Stockholm. 

First up we have Jean Michael Cardell, a disabled veteran with a passion for strong drink and bar brawls....a former night watchman with haunted memories of war.

Then Cecil Winge enters the picture, lawyer turned consulting detective for Stockholm police, a notably skilled young man living on borrowed time.....and together these two troubled men search the DARK and dangerous city streets for a ruthless monster who tortures and maims before he kills. 

Kristofer Blix also plays a significant roll in the storyline as a young & bright, but struggling and tormented soul who gets a rude awakening of how he must pay the piper for past mistakes.....and sohopes to atone for his sins.

And then there's the falsely accused Anna Stina who takes us to the tortuous workhouses of the time where monstrous types brutalize the innocent. 

This is just a sampling of what is to come in THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN....only some of the characters....many of whom are greedy, sadistic and just plain evil.  The story is complex, at times bloody gruesome and unsettling, but a mystery that is both cleverly plotted and assures the reader they would NOT want to live during his post war torn time in history.   

Many pieces to this intricate puzzle, and very DARK, but oh what a debut!

***Arc provided by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***
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!8th century dark and gruesome thriller set in Sweden. This book is brilliantly written and keeps you enthralled until the last page.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Atria books for the review copy.  

Although this novel started out a bit slowly, it quickly pulled me in with the view of 18th century Sweden and the cast of characters. The different threads of the main characters are deftly woven together into one entertaining, intricate tale.

I hope to see much more from Niklas Natt och Dag.
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This book begins with a mutilated body, so it is not for the faint of heart. It takes place in Stokholm in 1793 and centers around two men. Mickel Cardell is a watchman, crippled from the war. He has a wooden arm that he often uses as a secret weapon when he gets into scraps. He is the unfortunate soul that fishes the dead body from the water and feels compelled to ensure the body is seen properly to the grave. Cecil Winge is a consulting detective for the local police and is dying from consumption. He agrees to look into the death of the mutilated body and joins forces with Mickel Cardell.
This was SUCH an interesting book! Definitely not the type of thriller I’m used to. It is dark and gritty, brutal and completely fascinating. I found myself reminded a bit of Sherlock Homes and Watson, though this story is much darker than any Holmes story I remember. If you are a historical fiction fan, I definitely recommend picking this one up!

Thank you so much to Atria books for sending me a copy of this book!
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An ARC of this book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This book is really good and I hated it. That's twice this year that a book has left me completely baffled about my opinion (the first was My Sister, the Serial Killer).

Anna Stina is a secondary character but the only one I felt even the slightest emotion about and she gets put through the ringer, geez. Cardell becomes likable toward the end but that's only after many chapters where he serves as nothing but a cudgel. Winge is a cardboard cutout of a person that manages to deliver some dry one-liners that serve as the only humor in the book (but they're really funny in context! What the heck!). The villain has the most cliched and boring motive that absolutely does not live up to the rollercoaster ride required to reach it.

I haven't read a book with this much filthy, stinking atmosphere since See What I Have Done. That book made a horrible setting out of one house. The Wolf and the Watchman takes the entire city of Stockholm and makes it absolutely repulsive. I'm sure it was in the 1790's but the author really wants to rub the gory details in your face.

SPEAKING OF THE GORY DETAILS, ughhhhh. I'm a fairly seasoned horror reader and this grossed me out. I had to skim some of the more gruesome parts (there are a lot of gruesome parts). It was a bit much to be honest but I guess that's what some people are here for.

I would recommend this book to people who like torture porn flicks but are pretentious enough to refer to them as "films".
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The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag is an award winning historical-fiction book taking place in Stockholm, Sweden during the 18th Century. Mr Natt och Dag is a member of the oldest surviving noble family in Sweden, this is his first book.

The first thing that struck me while reading The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag is how atmospheric and dark the story is, brutal as well. I would imagine it defines the times, after all the French Revolution is in its height, every monarch in Europe is shaking on their throne and is using every weapon in their arsenal to keep down the masses.

The horror in this book has nothing to do with imaginary monsters, but with the horror of what humans are able to do to one another. It is fascinating, however, that despite the difficulties of living in the 18th Century, the day-to-day issues that occupy people are the same as they are today. Who is in love? How do I get better at what I do? Why don’t I get appreciated? Etc.
I do believe, though, that society has changed for the better.

I’m not a believer in good and evil as absolutes, good people can do horrible things which, for me, is truly horrifying. For example: How can one rationally explain genocide?
This book seems to thrive on the moral ambiguity of its characters, which makes it a fascinating and exciting read.

This book is dark, if I had to categorize it I would under historical-fiction / noir genre. They cynicism is spilling off the page, the characters are in a constant state of fatalism, but best of all there is moral ambiguity on every page.
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This book was written well, well thought out and executed in a creative way, but if I’m honest it was just to dark for my tastes, In fact it’s what I would consider  a man book. Because of this  opinion I had my husband read it and he loved it,.  Mike considered it the best book he’s read this year. 
Not all good books are a fit for each of us but I will be recommending this one to all men readers, and women who are into  dark and manly accounts
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This is a story so chock full of emotionally compelling goodness that one is never quite sure where to focus one's attention.
Though this book is a work of fiction. It is quite clear that it functions also as a commentary on life and society in this region of Sweden, at this time.
The suffering, the apathy, the injustice.

A theme echoed through the losses of both leading men Winge and Cardell.
Winge with the loss of his future due to consumption.
Cardell with the loss of his arm and sanity to the war.
This book is in part a mystery. However, the social drama is by far the most compelling aspects of the read.
The sheer amounts of apathy to the plight of both death and suffering that pervades the social strata here. Nothing short of mind-boggling.
Even in the face of what is clearly a most horrendous torture and murder.

The supporting characters that the two meet in their efforts to find justice for the most unfortunate of souls.
And the way that other stories cause the first to morph and grow.
Gives readers a very eye-opening understanding of the dynamics of the often futile struggle between those with power. However minuscule the amount, and those they choose to exploit.
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I found The Wolf and the Watchman to be extremely well written, with characters that linger in the mind long after closing the book on the last page. What seems to start with a strange, but intriguing murder mystery evolves into a deep, dark look into humanity itself. There is indeed a murder to be solved, but the road to solving it is a long, winding and often horrifying one. 

Cardell is an interesting and endearing character. A huge, intimidating ex-soldier who is a sometimes-watchman and general muscle for establishments with that kind of need. His is haunted by his military service and his perceived failings. His sense of justice and attempts to correct his past wrongs make him a perfect companion to Winge who hasn't the physical strength of Cardell, but has the intellectual prowess to solve most any crime. I found this pair to be the best crime solving duo I've encountered in literature to date. 

Each character in the novel has a fascinating and often heartbreaking and/or terrifying backstory. There is not a dull moment in the entire book. Each strand of this multi-layered story pulls the reader deeper into the dark, dazzling and violent mystery taking place in 1793 Stockholm. Often it seems like Cardell and Winge are the only people striving for justice in a violently mad world. The novel is beautiful and horrifying at the same time. I was absolutely enthralled and could barely put the book down. Highly recommended.
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Earlier this year I read The Alienist, yes I know I’m about a million years late to the party for The Alienist. In short, I loved The Alienist and I found that it was a completely different and unique story and prose.

Though I had to take it in small doses, I still loved it and thought that it will forever stand out as an excellent historic thriller not only for the time when it was written, but that it has a lasting appeal. So when this book came across my desk for review and was marketed to fans of The Alienist, I couldn’t say no.

That’s a tall order to fill for me, so I was eager to see if this book was going to live up to the hype.


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 (summary from Goodreads).


Sometimes when people compare newer books to older classics, I hesitate because it’s often not the case. However, in this case, this book was worthy of the comparison to The Alienist. I can see why this book was likened to that cult classic.

It was a graphic, gruesome, and terrifying read. Wolf and the Watchman had a very gritty and dark feel to it and I was surprised that I actually found it more gruesome than The Alienist (how is that possible you ask? Read the books and find out!). I don’t mind gore or exceptionally dark/gritty plots and mysteries, however I can only read it in a small dosing and in this case, it slowed this novel down for me.

I don’t know if this is going to be a book that will appeal to a wide audience. This book is going to appeal to fans of The Alienist to be sure, and others who love very graphic murder novels, but I think some readers might be put off with the gore aspect.

The author clearly loves this time period. He wrote with such authority on the living conditions and the time period that one could easily feel like they were there. I thought it added a lot fo the authenticity of the story but again I think some readers might find the descriptions uncomfortable or off-putting. I know nothing about Sweden during this time, but the author made it come alive, unflattering though the images may be, it came alive nevertheless.

So where does that leave me with this book? I found it a little slow and overwritten at some points, but overall I thought it was good. I could only read it in small doses so it did read slower for me. At the end I went with 3 stars. It was good and worthy of The Alienist comparison, but I just couldn’t get past the level of despair and gore.

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Atria Books (first published September 2017)
ISBN 1501196774 (ISBN13: 9781501196775)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Atria, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: historical fiction, thriller
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