The Wolf and the Watchman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Mar 2019

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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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Atmospheric and fascinating, this book Swedish author Niklas Natt och Dag is set on the Southern Isle of Sweden in the late 1700's. Both a fascinating look at Sweden in this period of time and a detailed study of how a murder was investigated, this book is thoughtful study that will leave readers of historical fiction captivated.
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From my blog: Always With a Book:

Last year, I watched the TV mini-series The Alienist and loved it - and it happens to be one of my husband's all-time favorite books...he owns THREE copies of the book, including a first edition! I still need to read the actual book, but when I saw that this book, THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN was being compared to The Alienist, I knew I wanted to give it a go - a historical fiction crime thriller - sounds right up my alley!

This is a dark, gritty, macabre read...not sure what that says about me as a reader, but I was fascinated with the story. It is a little slow going and it does take a while to get into the rhythm of the story, but I tell you, I found myself captivated. It's certainly not a fast, thrilling read - this is definitely a different kind of absorbing read, yet one that still had me invested in what was going on.

I will say this is not a book for everyone - it's violent, at times graphic, in nature. But if you can get past that, it really is quite an intricately woven tale that will take you down a path in history you probably know nothing about. It takes us into the underbelly of Stockholm in the late 1700s and believe me, it's not really a time you would want to live. What kept me going was the compelling descriptions that we get and the characters we meet. There are a few mysteries and of course I needed them to be solved! I needed to know how everything tied together.

The characters in this book are so well-drawn. We get their full back story so that they have depth and complexity. This draws you in as much as the brilliant descriptions of the setting. You really get a sense of what Stockholm was like back in the 1790s - it comes alive with the author's writing. There is such a sharp contrast between the haves and the have-nots and this is clearly due to the writer's talent.

This was quite a compelling read and one that is not soon to be forgotten. I will absolutely be keeping an eye out for what comes next from this author...his writing is quite remarkable.
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MY REVIEW- So when I was approached by Atria, I was told that THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN was “Chilling and thought-provoking. Relentless, well-written, and nearly impossible to put down.”  and I stand by that statement as well. I am not going to lie, I initially felt like this book would be out of comfort zone, but after reading it, I am so glad that I did.

This was some of the most descriptive writing that I have ever read. The environment was so rich and addictive, when it came time to having to put the book down, I had to fight myself every night. It was so detailed that I felt I was living inside this story. I do want to add, this book is dark, and very ominous. I think some readers may find some of the topics off-putting, in that same breath, other readers are going to love it.

Also, I want to add, that the pacing is a bit different, with it being a Nordic Noir, it reads different than a lot of Thrillers on the market. It’s a much slower pace, and does tend to take a little while to really be grasped by the story. So, if you’re in for a page turning, fast paced, roller coaster type of read, this isn’t going to be what you’re looking for.
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Dark and gruesome but a very well told story that I enjoyed reading. More than just a thriller this is crime fiction as well, which I love. I love that is is set in the 1700s , this very detailed book will keep you up late reading into the night.
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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.
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Not for the faint-hearted, this book rocks!  I loved the story, the characters and the sense of place.  The author pulls no punches to tell his twisted story.  I found the author's sense of place particularly fascinating, learning many things about Sweden in the early 1790's.  Both a history lesson and a terrific literary mystery, this will satisfy my customers who enjoy Thomas Harris and Umberto Eco.
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This is a pretty dark and seedy book and while I can see some people having some flinches and troubles with certain parts, I absolutely found those to be some of my favorite parts. This is a very atmospheric reads but along the lines of The Alienist , I think I find these better suited on the screen. 

I had some issues with the translation and with the flow of conversation. It seemed to take a lot of time to get into the nitty gritty and I much prefer a faster pace. However... I absolutely was enthralled with the story line. I think just for me, as a reader, these are the types of reads I much prefer to see on film. There's a special cadence and flow to these types of reads that I just can't seem to get into the rhythm of. Yet, I just can't look away either. 

Absolutely not a fun read but not all of them need to be - especially in this type of nordic noir, historical fiction thriller.
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•	Title: The Wolf and The Watchman Alt. Title 1793
•	Author: Niklas Natt och Dag
•	Series: Stand-Alone
•	Pages: 384
•	Genre: Historical Fiction/ Mystery/ Thriller
•	Rating Out of 5 Stars: 3
My Thoughts: 
   The Wolf and the Watchmen is a graphic, arresting and grizzly mashup of Sherlock Holmes, the Alienist and Perfume. 
    The mystery and approach to the situation within the dark atmosphere really draws you in. I really enjoyed the writing, even as hard hitting as it was. Our author does not shy away from graphic details. If you are the squeamish type please bear in mind there is lots of descriptive scenes involving certain depraved natures, dissection and torture. The book itself is broken in a few parts following a different narrative which can come across rather abrupt. You really get into the mood of one arc then are thrown into another. Over all we follow four characters story arcs: Cardell and Winge, Anna Stina and Kristofer Blix
     Cardell and Winge take up much of the story arc. This pair very much gave me the impression of a Sherlock and Watson duo in the manner they behaved and developed through the book. While they rely on each other it was nice to see them get equal measure in the tasks they took on and clues they pieced together.
       Anna Stina has, I feel, has the next largest story arc. The whole in and of itself was well done. However, you could have completely taken her narrative out of the book without having to make to many major edits with the other two. I felt that it added absolutely nothing to the overall story. It was her narrative that brought down a four to 4.5-star rating down to a 3 for me. 
        Kristofer has the biggest tie in with what is going on in the main plot. I wish his backstory had not taken place so late in the book. I’m not going to go into much with him as there are lots of spoilers involved there.

	This started off so strong. It’s not that I’m disappointed in the book but it really lost its momentum with the Anna Stina focus. If you take that out it was fantastic. Absolutely disturbing, but a great read. I still recommend it, especially if you are into the macabre.
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This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and WOW! It did not disappoint. This book kinda of has a Sherlock Holmes vibe but is completely its own! This is one of the most messed up/brutal crime books I've read and I kind of want to cry with that ending... I 100% recommend this book and I can see it possibly being my favorite of the year and it's only March!
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Sorry, I appear to have a very unpopular opinion for this one. This was something that I was highly anticipating this year too, but I found it plodding and humdrum. I'm not sure if this is something that might have to do with the translation, but there were a few times where I found a sentence or two embedded in a paragraph that just didn't seem to belong there? For grittier and much more engrossing reads, I found I was rewarded with books like [book:The Burning Chambers|36660443] or [book:Martyr|6397014] as two examples of books I recently (last year).  

I don't plan on reviewing this on the Literary Hoarders' site as I don't like to spend too much time talking about books I didn't really enjoy. It doesn't seem appropriate to do so.
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1793 Stockholm - the filth, the stench, the destitute, the depraved - this novel is not for the faint of heart. It starts with watchman Mickel Cardel pulling a body from a lake. To set the gruesome tone, this is a body whose arms and legs have been severed. Lawyer Cecil Winge sets out to investigate this crime and calls upon Cardell to assist.
This novel follows these two characters along with two others identified later. Along the way again and again small events lead to horrific life changing events for the characters - the butterfly effect.
As I was reaching the end of this book, I kept pausing between chapters because I was so anxious about the outcome. This is one I have continued to think about since finishing. That’s the sign of a 5⭐️ book to me.
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The Wolf and the Watchman is a 2019 Atria Books publication.

Morose and grisly- but morbidly fascinating! 

Late 1700s- Stockholm-

A mutilated corpse is found in the lake- and by mutilated, I mean limbs, tongue, and eyes had been methodically removed, one at a time, the work mimicking that of a surgeon. 

Cecil Winge, a lawyer, suffering through the last stages of consumption has been asked to look into the matter, which is the only thing that keeps him on his feet, fighting to stay alive long enough to solve the mystery. 

Winge teams up with Mickel Cardell, a disabled former soldier, who discovered, then fished the body out of the water. Together they work to officially identify the body and discover who murdered the man in such a gruesome manner. 

This novel has generated a bit of publicity, and as such, has already garnered a bit of a reputation- clueing me in on its violent nature. However, I was still unprepared for the lurid content I encountered in this story!! So, even if one has a high tolerance for graphic violence and gore, this novel will test your limits and boundaries. So- consider yourself warned. 

The plot is intricate, and very absorbing, with several interesting character studies rounding things out. The dark and macabre underbelly of Stockholm provides an unsettling and nerve-wracking atmosphere which never allowed one to relax or exhale, even for a moment. There is also an urgency to the solving the crime as Winge’s health progressively worsens, adding an even heavier quality to an already depressingly grim tale. 

Although there are very few rays of light in this dreary mystery/thriller, the sun does break through the clouds from time to time, offering some modicum of relief, but not for very long. I needed a respite from this one a time or two, but did find the story very compelling, with moments of real brilliance, although, the grit still overshadowed the finer nuances. 

I can see why this book has captured the attention of its publisher, and why they hope a marketing push will steer it into the mainstream. But, despite the impressiveness of it, I’m not sure it’s ready for prime time, which is an audience trained to absorb bland, contained, polished, and watered down content. I'm not convinced this novel is suited for mass consumption. 

Perhaps it would work better with a cult following, which is a far more intriguing, enduring, and even flattering thought, appealing to a specific audience capable of giving it the credit it is due…. Without feeling a little blue or green around the gills.
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4.5/5 Stars!

A gruesomely mutilated body is fished out of a local lake by a night watchman. So begins this dark mystery set in Stockholm in the late 1700's.

The main characters, the aforementioned night watchman, (Cardell), and a lawyer dying from consumption, (Winge), were fascinating and multi-layered. Winge hasn't much time left in this world, and he makes the investigation of this case his only reason for living. Cardell, an injured war veteran looking for self worth and coming up short, is turning to the bottle instead. This mystery provides a reason for him to stay sober. Mostly. Together, they wander the disgusting streets of Stockholm, hunting their murderer. Will they find him/her? Will Winge live long enough to see the perpetrator tried for the crime? Will Cardell be able to keep himself out of the bottle long enough to aid Winge in his only goal? You'll have to read this to find out!

I enjoyed reading about this time in Stockholm's history. Admittedly, I do not know much about the city or the country, but I learned a little bit reading this book. I learned that the city, much like others of its size around the world at that time, was a seething pit of disease. Piles of excrement lying around, chamber pots emptied out the window-I think you get the drift. Whenever I read about living in a city during this time period I wonder how humanity survived at all.

On top of the filth of the city, its inhabitants were often entertained by the worst society has to offer. Gambling, prostitution, and ruining the reputations of others just for fun-these were the popular habits of the day. A woman, left widowed, or worse yet? Impregnated before marriage? They were left in circumstances beyond dire. Combat veterans-especially those who lost limbs or those who were mentally impaired due to the harsh circumstances of war? They fared no better. Most people were so involved in their own survival, (no small feat!) there was no time or thought put into charity for others.

Regarding the solving of the gruesome murder, this book reminded me quite a lot of THE ALIENIST. Winge was especially interested in hearing the motives from the killers themselves in his past cases, and he wants to know what made this perpetrator tick as well. While THE ALIENIST was heavily involved with crime investigation techniques, Winge was much more interested in the psychological aspects of criminals. So am I, so this viewpoint worked perfectly for me. 

The way this tale unfolded was intriguing-the first section involving Winge and Cardell, the others involving other people with whom we were not familiar. It kept me reading because I needed to see how all of this was going to tie together. I think the telling was my favorite aspect of this story-well, this and the main characters. 

I finished up the book having developed a serious liking and respect for Cardell. Both he and Winge were men of honor, something which seemed to be in short supply during this time period. I wanted to know more about the Eumenides and a few other characters as well. I am really hoping for a sequel here, people!

I devoured this book as quickly as I could. As I said above, I was fascinated by how the author told the story, the pacing was excellent, and the mystery a good one. I especially liked the darkness of the tale and how the author did not shy away from the brutality of life at the time. I suspect that the gruesome nature of this story, and the author's unflinching telling of it, may turn some readers off. But for this reader, lover of dark fiction that I am, it was nearly perfect and left me wanting more. Please, bring on a sequel, sir!

Highly recommended! 

*Thank you to Atria and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.
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1793. Stockholm. Crippled, former soldier, Mikel Cardell, discovers a mutilated corpse floating in a filth-filled lake. The body's arms, legs, eyes, and tongue have been removed. Cardell teams up with a dying lawyer to identify the body and find a killer. Turns out the pretty, painted elite class in the city aren't quite as beautiful as they seem....and the city has a very dirty, disturbing underbelly. 

This had to let my thoughts percolate for a few days before I could write a review on this one. This one was a rough read. Not because it wasn't good....but because it was extremely and masterfully dark! The story is disturbing and even grotesque in places....but utterly mesmerizing. I couldn't stop reading....but there were a few scenes I found hard to read. Definitely not a book to read over dinner. I'm not going to comment on the plot at all beyond the basic blurb spoilers would ruin parts of the story for others. All I will say is it's disturbing and masterfully suspenseful. 

The characters are gritty and realistic. It paints a bleak picture of class separation, hidden secrets and just the filth and brutal nature of life in the 18th century. 

Great book! But be prepared for some gruesome violence, cruel characters and a disturbing look at poverty, death and deception in the 1790s. 

I'm definitely going to be reading more by this author. He is one hell of a storyteller!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Atria Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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The Wolf and the Watchman is a great historical thriller. It is 1793 in Stockholm, Sweden. Cecil Winge and Mickel Cardel try to solve a murder when a mutilated body is found in the lake. Cecil works for the  police, but is limited by consumption and is quite physically weak. Cardel is a war veteran and ex-watchman, who likes to drink hard and often.

This novel is vividly written and quite gruesome – but great. It is so well written that it is your imagination that makes it so difficult at times. There are other notable characters as well that completely absorb you into their lives. I am unwilling to spoil the story so I am keeping this review quite short.

It was a little difficult to follow the political aspects, but that is not the fault of the novel. Prior to this novel, I knew very little of Sweden and the time period. Anyone who loves historical fiction and mystery/thriller will like this novel.

Throughout the book I kept thinking, ‘Who is the wolf?’ It was made brilliantly clear by the end.

4 out of 5 stars. Thank you so much Atria Books and Netgalley for an advanced copy.
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