Cover Image: The Wolf and the Watchman

The Wolf and the Watchman

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Set in 1793 Stockholm, this historical mystery is one not to be missed. The book is well-written from start to finish, the characters are interesting and well-drawn, the setting is brought to life for the reader by a talented writer.

The book may be difficult to read for some readers because of the topic, for others because the author describes Stockholm with such detail and it is not the pristine Stockholm of today. The author does not spare the reader the details of the murder victim’s condition when it is dragged from the lake and the reader may find herself averting her eyes from the page at the detail of what the sadistic murderer did to his victim.

Seldom do we see a novel so noir, but so well written. This book is certainly not for the faint of heart.
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Translated from Swedish, The Wolf and The Watchman takes place during the French Revolution's "reign of terror" period. This graphic, heart-breaking novel reminded me of Alienist, Sherlock Holmes, and The Hypnotist.

In 1793 Stockholm, four characters cross paths in this dark novel.
- Mickel Cardell (the watchman) is a former night watchman and an ex-soldier who lost an arm in the war. After finding a mutilated body floating in a lake he feels compelled to find out who this person was.
- Cecil Winge (the wolf) is a lawyer who's asked by the Stockholm police chief for help identifying the dead body with no eyes, no teeth, no arms, and no legs found in the lake by Cardell.
- Through letters to his sister, we learn about Kristopher Blix leaving the farm for the city, with plans of becoming a Doctor.
- Anna Stina is wrongly accused of being a whore, and sentenced to time in the workhouse. After witnessing a woman be beaten by a brutal man named Peter Pettersson, Anna devises a plan to escape.

I loved the vivid descriptions, compelling characters, atmospheric setting, and plot. There are a few pacing issues, however the last 74 pages are absolutely heart-pounding! While we're trying to figure out the identity of the mutilated body and who killed the person, we're thrown into the struggles of 18th century Stockholm. There is a lot of sexism and prejudices which fuel big themes like equality and justice.

There is one big thing I didn't like, I don't want to ruin the story so I'll just say a man gets away with murdering a woman and it made me really mad that no one was held accountable for her death.

The Wolf and The Watchman is a dark, detailed, disturbing historical fiction murder mystery novel that asks whether the end justifies the means.

Setting: 5/5
Plot Development: 3.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Quality of Writing: 4.5/5
Ending: 3.5/5
Overall: 4.1
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Holy shit. 

I've recently been iffy about reading ARCs because a couple of them have been really dull and difficult to plough through but this is the literal opposite of that. Everything about this book, from the characters to the setting to the plot, was just so great, I'm almost upset that it's over because I don't get to keep reading it. 

Murder mysteries are everyone's favorite backup genre. Even when it's not really a whodunnit, but more about how and why the murder occurred, you can't help getting sucked into the world of the victim, the detective, and the criminal, and watch from your omniscient position as the reader as the different plot lines converge to reveal the best approximation of the truth. 

I loved that neither of the main characters was perfect, and that they both had issues. I loved that each time the perspective switched in different parts of the book, it wasn't just a new narrator but a new aspect of the crime which revealed that what comes before and after a murder is just as relevant to the lives of people as the actual crime itself. And, to keep it spoiler free, I absolutely LOVED the ending. 

There was no exposition in the beginning, or random explanation of things that didn't matter. The reader uncovered information at the same pace that the characters did, especially in Part Two with Blix. But even though I was kept in the dark for the majority of the novel, not once did I feel frustrated or confused about the plot. The present timeline was written clearly enough to make sense, but didn't give away any of the secrets of the past, which speaks highly to the author's talent. 

The political and geographical background was really interesting too. Choosing to set books in the past is sometimes difficult for authors because they focus too much on the "there's no technology" aspect and ignore the social and cultural implications of the era, but that definitely didn't happen in this book. The turmoil in Stockholm and the French Revolution happening in the background gave a good undertone of suspense to the novel, even in scenes which weren't necessarily action-packed. 

TLDR: A great plot with really nice language, and plenty of mystery to keep the reader hooked til the last page and then some. I'd definitely recommend this novel to anyone who's interested in crime, politics, and human behavior. 

(This book is an ARC obtained through NetGalley! Thank you for the opportunity!)
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The Wolf and the Watchman immediately immerses the reader into the world of 18th-century Stockholm-- and be sure to cover your nose. People take a bath once a year, and they're completely unconcerned about the raw sewage that seems to be everywhere. After all, it's so cold for much of the year, it's frozen so it won't smell. Much. While navigating through the filth on Stockholm's streets and listening to the rumors of guillotines in France, the brawn of Mickell Cardell and the brains of Cecil Winge go to work to uncover the identity of the corpse that was dumped into the Larder. Winge has to steer a path through all the corruption, paranoia, and conspiracies in the Chamber of Police while Cardell and his violent temper must work the mean streets of the poorest sections of Stockholm for clues. They are a good pair for both are more than the sum of their parts.

We then learn about a poor farm boy, Kristofer Blix, who comes to Stockholm for a better life and learns just exactly what he will do to survive. In a similar situation is orphan Anna Stina Knapp, who's turned over to the workhouse by a parish priest more concerned with his own comfort than that of the welfare of his congregation.

I loved watching all the various pieces of plot and story come together. Would Winge survive long enough to solve the case? Would Cardell survive his PTSD-induced rages and alcoholic blackouts? I have to admit that the wealth of historical detail went a bit overboard for me. Especially when it comes to lack of personal hygiene and any sort of sewage containment, a little goes a very long way. It even-- no pun intended-- bogged down the pace of the book from time to time. 

The true strength of The Wolf and the Watchman was in its characters, and its strongest character, for me, was Anna Stina Knapp. It was not an era for a poor and pretty female, and I loved how she refused to give up. Yes, watching the bits and pieces of the story slot into place like a Rubik's Cube and watching every character fight against the odds made this book a winning read. I will be interested to see what Niklas Natt och Dag writes next.
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My thanks to Atria books, and Netgalley.
It's funny, but when I heard about this book, I thought this is something I would love. It was certainly bloodthirsty enough. A man is fished out of the Larder in Sweden. No eyes, no tongue, no limbs. At all. Great, I thought. I love gruesome! Turns out that gruesome is not even half as bad as everything else going on in this hair-raising book!
I think my whole disconnect with this story was the year..1793, and the location. I know absolutely nothing about Sweden. It's just a fact. I don't know, not do I care. Don't get me wrong, because I love reading about modern day Stockholm. 1793 Stockholm? Ugh. No. Filthy, reeking, place. Polluted waterways. Workhouses? What the hell is this? No, no and no. This world is unfathomable to me. I know it's true, but I couldn't even picture this seething cesspool. I have the wonderful ability to see a moving picture in my mind when I read books. This never formed solid. I could picture a few scenes, but not most. That seldom happens. I think that everything was just so repugnant. Honestly, for me the mystery was a good one, and I probably would have enjoyed it 200+ years in the future. was, everything was too bleak for me. There is a reason why I don't read most stories from this time. I do think that most people who read mystery books from this time period would enjoy this. For me though everything was so freaking bleak. Hopeless.
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1793. War with Russia had left many structures in Stockholm, Sweden in ruin. "...the world itself: so much darkness, so little light". So much disparity between wealthy aristocrats and the abject poverty forced upon the common man. Mickel Cardell, ex-soldier and former watchman, knew only too well the deprivation and famine of war. He had lost an arm fighting.

Mickel Cardell had found a way to lessen his panic attacks and terrible nightmares by using strong drink, constant inebriation and bar brawls. An intoxicated Mickel was asked to retrieve a body from the lake. Was the carcass human? It was without limbs, eyes, teeth or tongue. He gives the corpse a measure of dignity by choosing to name him "Karl Johan" until the identity of the deceased could be determined. The only clue, the body was wrapped in expensive black fabric.

Cecil Winge, a very disciplined and well regarded lawyer is dying from consumption. He has found a distraction in order to remain forward thinking. Every night, he dismantles and reassembles his pocket watch. Winge has an agreement with Police Chief Norlin of Indebetou House. Norlin requests Winge's assistance in solving the grisly crime. "How often have we been placed before a wrong of a magnitude truly worth making right, that has also been in our power to correct? This is ...something of an order neither you or I have seen before." Winge recruits Mickel Cardell , hoping to work in tandem with him, since time is of the essence. First, Winge's consumptive cough is worsening and second, Police Chief Norlin will likely be succeeded by a corrupt Police Chief who will not sanction the investigation into "Karl Johan's" grisly demise.

A commentary on life in 1793 Sweden plays out with a glimpse into the lives of Kristofer Blix and Anna-Stina Knapp. Kristofer Blix, seventeen years old and son of a rural farmer, has aspirations of becoming a doctor. A night of gambling creates an enormous debt. A gentleman buys his debt and "owns" Blix until the debt is paid but, at what cost? Anna-Stina Knapp's plight is different. By refusing the advances of a suitor, the young girl who sells fruit baskets is accused of "whoring" and is sent to the workhouse where greater dangers lurk. "Like a wolf is man to other men". Man arguably looks for weakness in others in order to better himself.

"The Wolf and the Watchman" by Niklas Natt och Dag is a historical mystery novel of the finest caliber. A grisly murder, very disquieting, needs resolution within a limited time frame. Can the case be solved? Kristofer Blix and Anna-Stina Knapp were victims of the harsh realities of poverty existing in 18th Century Sweden. How will they fare? This was a richly detailed, at times disturbing, read from debut author Niklas Natt och Dag. An excellent tome deserving of a 5* star rating.

Thank you Atria Books and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Wolf and the Watchman".
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DNF @ 20%

The Wolf and the Watchmen is a story set in 1793 involving the brutal murder of a man and the duo on the hunt for the perpetrator. This is quite a violent and graphic story but it paints a vivid portrait of 18th century Sweden. Did anyone watch the show Taboo with Tom Hardy? It reminded me a lot of that except Taboo has a facet of the supernatural and this story did not. While I don’t normally need supernatural additives in my historical fiction for them to suceed, it did make me realize that I felt like there was something missing to this story that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. This story is admittedly very well-written and I can see why it was awarded best debut novel by The Swedish Academy of Crime Writers, unfortunately, the bleakness of the story was absolute and I couldn’t find the motivation to finish.
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(There's no translator listed, strangely, but this was originally written in Swedish.) A murder mystery set in 1790s Stockholm. Cardell, a watchman in name only since he’s more interested in getting drunk and escaping his memories of being a soldier, is called in when street kids find a human body dumped in a nearby lake. The body is a torso only: limbless, toothless, eyeless, and, of course, nameless, and yet very recent. Cardell teams up with Winge, a Sherlock Holmes-like detective, devoted to rationality and tiny details, who’s also busy dying of consumption. Together they a) figure out how to identify the body, and b) trace the killer.

A perfectly fine premise. And yet THIS BOOK IS SO TERRIBLE. So terrible that I don’t even know where to begin listing all of my problems with it!

Okay. Let’s start here: The Wolf and the Watchman is divided into four parts fairly equal in length. Parts One and Four are the story of Cardell and Winge as they investigate the mystery of the torso. Parts Two and Three are the stories of, respectively, Kristofer Blix and Anna Stina, who have only the most tangential of connections to the main plot. So minor are their contributions, in fact, that they could have served the exact same role in the mystery without even being given names, much less 100 pages each of backstory. And their sections aren’t uninteresting; if I had read them as independent novellas I probably would have enjoyed them, particularly Anna’s. But when you’re in the middle of a book and it suddenly jumps to a different character with no apparent relation to what you were previously reading (both of them do eventually connect to the murder plot, but only near the end of their sections), you can’t help but be distracted by wondering when you’re going to return to the main point of the book. 

The Wolf and the Watchman also absolutely revels in the grossest, dirtiest, harshest, most sickening parts of history. Which you probably could guess from any book that opens with a limbless torso, but it’s true of every element of plot and setting and description. And that limbless torso – I’m trying not to go into any great detail, because if I did this post would need an abundance of trigger warnings. But let me say: I read a lot of murder mysteries, and this one is definitely a step beyond the usual, verging on torture porn. Not to mention the literal torture, the multiple rapes, and the child abuse, to name only a few other elements. I don’t require a rosy portrayal of the past, but The Wolf and the Watchman is so self-evidently gleeful at rubbing its readers' faces in shit, mucus, and rotting corpses that it’s hard not to take a step back and roll your eyes. It reminds me a bit of Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue – though oddly I liked that book; I suppose Donoghue simply could pull off the grimness better than Natt och Dag does – but they share a similar desire to be The Most Depressing and The Most Gross.

Yet another problem was an absolutely appalling, out of nowhere, simply horrific scene of blatant anti-semitism. The Jewish character is a loan collector (such a surprise, I'm sure) who seems to be reenacting The Merchant of Venice, taking his pound of flesh:
“I am no simple bean counter who drives my business by way of interest rates, Kristofer Blix. I trade in other commodities. When the young man’s debt became considerable, I realized that I owned him and that I could do whatever I wanted with him [...]. Once I formed glass into the shapes that pleased me. Today I shape your lives in the same way.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, he is then described as having LITERAL HORNS:
When shadows fell across his face, I thought I could glimpse fangs between his lips and a forehead bulging with two small horns, each finger ending in a claw. I rubbed my eyes to coax back reality.

Granted, this character only appears on about three pages out of an entire novel, so it would be easy enough to skip over it, but what is it even doing here? What is happening in Sweden that this appears so nonchalantly in a novel published in 2019 – well, 2017 in the original Swedish? Apparently it was even voted best debut novel that year by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers which... I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

In an equally appalling but entirely separate plot development, a young woman ends up pregnant after being raped. Being unmarried, she's worried her life will be destroyed if her pregnancy is discovered, plus, you know, she violently hates the rapist. The man she goes to for abortion drugs instead gives her a placebo, telling her the truth only once it's too late for her to safely have an abortion. He then uses her dilemma to force her into accepting his proposal of marriage. This plot would fit in just fine with all the grimdarkness above, except that we're apparently supposed to see it as a good thing. The man's actions are repeatedly described as his redemption, and the woman, instead of being furious, is grateful and happy, decides she really does want the baby after all, and even finds her trauma over the rape and the rest of her past healed by her continued pregnancy. WHAT. THE. FUCK.

And in a minor detail apparently just thrown in for fun, Winge sets free a man who murdered his wife. There's no particularly redeeming features about this guy – he and his wife fought repeatedly, one night he got drunk and hit her harder than usual – but he's less bad than the central murderer of the plot, which I guess I agree with? I don't think that justifies Winge's decision to set him completely free to live his life as though he never murdered anyone, though. 

Just an awful book all around. I cannot believe the good press and huge marketing push it's getting.
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"Named Best Debut Novel of 2017 by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers.

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 gruesome 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."

Any book touted as "The Alienist set in eighteenth-century Stockholm" is a must read for me!
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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.
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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.
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This is a difficult but engrossing and incredibly well written story.

I say it's difficult because the writing plants us firmly in Sweden during the late 1700s, amidst political upheavals in a bleak society. Realism abounds, and it's rarely pleasant. I swear I felt the lice in the bedding crawling on my skin. I felt the dirt and grime, the misery, the hunger, and the pain. Sometimes I had to put the book down and find relief in my modern surroundings. 

The writing is descriptive and atmospheric. This story is as much about the place and time as it is about the people. Consequently, the pace is slow, but I didn't mind that because I was completely transported into this world. Rarely do I find a book that so completely takes over all my senses. At no time was I sitting on a sofa with a book in my hand; I was walking the streets of Sweden, with all the sensory stimulus and emotions the characters experienced. 

The characters are well developed and complex. None of them remain stagnant, either. They transform as circumstances affect them. 

The plot is no one thing I can summarize. It's layered and woven together in surprising ways. 

This is a dark and bleak story that I lived and breathed and loved.
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This book was an amazing read. You will travel to 1973 Stockholm to a time of "crowded streets, gilded palaces and dark corners."

What begins with a dead body floating in the Larder will take you on a journey towards justice in a way that will make you wish you were a personal observer in the eighteenth century. 

It takes some time to get used to the writing in my opinion, but once you get into the book you can't put it down! I loved it!
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Set in the late 1700's Stockholm, this novel comprise a feeling of desperation, sadness, cruelty and  injustice. 
The narrative is excellent: starting with the discovery of a body, the atrocities that the subject must have endured, and the last case appointed to a dying man to uncover the truth. The following chapters will unravel dark secretes and heinous acts with unexpected subplots and situations.
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I’m not a fan of historical fiction needless to say it took me a while to get interested in this book but I’m glad I powered through it.  The plotting is outstanding and the writing is captivating. The character’s stories are fascinating and well developed. This is not a read for the squeamish. This is one savage story with explicit and graphic details of torture. Having said all that the author did a phenomenal job pulling you along the story in such a manner that I wanted to put the book do
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It's 1793, and a mutilated body has been found floating in the city's lake. Mickel Cardell, an ex-watchman and crippled ex-soldier feels compelled to give the man a proper burial. Cecil Winge, an attorney and consultant for the Stockholm police, makes this case the last thing he will do as he is dying from consumption. He wants to solve the puzzle of the identity of the man who had no arms, no legs, no teeth, eyes or tongue. Who was he? Why was he tortured in such a manner? Who could have done this to him? The two men, Cardell and Winge, go on a mission to solve this case before time for one, or perhaps both, run out.

Kristofer Blix is the son of a doctor. He writes letters to his sister in which he chronicles his life, his conquests, his good times, his misfortunes, and the horrible path he finds himself upon.

Anna-Stina is a beautiful young woman who finds herself committed to a horrendous workhouse accused of being a whore after upsetting the local priest. Life here is horrific and she devises an escape plan.

If you haven't guessed it, this one is brutal folks. There are some scenes in this book which will not be for everyone. If you are squeamish, you may want to think twice. Whew! Hard core is all I can say! For those who dare, this was a captivating and riveting. 

How are these stories connected? Who is the mutilated young man? How did he come to suffer such a fate? There is a lot of mystery here but there are also vivid descriptions (not just the brutal ones), scenes which detail what like was like in Stockholm during that time. The individual stories of the characters are interesting and detail each character’s motivation.

A brutal and chilling tale and glimpse into life in the 1700's that I found to be captivating, depressing, and revolting all at the same time. Boy, what a journey this was. I enjoyed how the men approached solving their case as the had to deal with some despicable people who were part of Sweden's underbelly. 

Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own
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At first, I was not really into this book. However, once the story of Anna Stina began,  I was intrigued. 
For some reason the story of Cecil Winge didn't grip me as it should have, but the story of Johannes and Anna was what drew me in and held me. I found I was forcing myself to pick up the book but by the end I was emotionally invested in Anna's story at the very least. I wouldn't say it was a wonderful book, but it definitely somewhat interesting. I would suggest you try it out if you are into historical fiction or Scandinavian history.
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I almost lost my nerve to keep going with this book. 

But Niklas Natt och Dag pulls back from that edge just in time to keep you going. You will want to know what happens, but you may quail at what you need to go through to get there. 

Set in 18th century Sweden, "The Wolf and the Watchman" begins with the discovery of a mutilated body in the Stockholm cesspit. Watchman Mickel Cardell is the one who hauls it out--he is soon joined in horror by Cecil Wenge, a lawyer dying of tuberculosis who wants to solve this crime while he still can. This journey will take them to unspeakable places and involve a number of intriguing characters. The resolution will surprise you.

Set at the time of the French Revolution, "Watchman" weaves in the recent assassination of Gustav III at a masquerade ball --yes, very Verdian, the inspiration for "Un Ballo en Maschera."  Gustav had started to embrace some of the advances of the Enlightenment but changed his mind and was returning Sweden to autocratic rule. The world is shifting, but in which direction no one is sure.

A lot of this novel is hard to take, but if you're a fan of Scando Noir, you won't be surprised.  Besides that, the plotting is smart and surprising and the writing is accomplished--is this the guy's first book? Hard to imagine. Kudos to Ebba Segerberg for the masterful translation.
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This is a ~very~ graphic novel of cruelty and depravity set in the harshness of Sweden in the early 1800's.  It was a most difficult read and I only made it through about 30%.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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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.
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