The Wolf and the Watchman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Niklas Natt och Dag has written a disturbing mystery of Sweden in 1793, a time of turmoil and simmering violence.  A cruelly dismembered body is found in rancid lake waters near Stockholm and two disparate investigators join forces to find the killer.  Mickel Cardell is a watchman with a wooden left arm who drinks to excess and Cecil Winge, a lawyer dying from consumption, who has been conscripted by the chief of police to investigate the corpse and circumstances surrounding its grisly dismemberment.

During their search, letters written by a 17-year-old from Stockholm are discovered.  In them, the young man, who has been forced into slavery because of his debts, details actions that appear to tie into the murder.  His letters also lead the investigators to Anna Stina, a young woman who refused to marry a madman that subsequently led to her imprisonment for “whoring and intent to lead the innocent into sin.”  How this all ties together forms the plot of Natt och Dag’s novel.  He ties these stories together into an insidious plan that outlines the descent of lives into a miserable existence that blurs the difference between good and evil.

In an interview, the author stated that Umberto Eco’s debut novel, “The Name of the Rose,” prompted his interest in pursuing an entertaining detective fiction with a layer of historical fact and another layer of conflict between reason and chaos beneath that.

The writing is gritty.  The characters are severely damaged.  The actions of people in power are treacherous and cruel.  There is not much sunshine in this time of desperation and perversion.  The reader will enter a world that is so dark and cruel that cringing will likely accompany the words he or she reads.  If this is the world of your interest, you’ll find a new place to explore.
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Well-written, but brutal and ugly. At times, this reads more like torture porn than literary mystery novel and that makes it a hard sell. The book ends rather abruptly as well.
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1793, Stockholm, a vile and violent city of putrid smells and public executions. 
Cecil Winge is dying from consumption but he is pulled from the brink of extinction when the body of a mutilated and drowned man is discovered in the river and he is asked to investigate. Mickel Cardell, who lost an arm in a sea battle during the war, is helping Winge to investigate the murder. 
These two men, the wolf and the watchman, share confidences but not friendship—time is too short. 

 I do not think it too harsh to describe this book as gruesome. It will be too graphic and dark for many readers. While I’m not super sensitive about my reading content, I could not connect with this book in any way. It may be that Swedish noir is simply not my thing. I thought this book read a little bit like the Thomas de Quincy series from David Morrell and I loved that series so I’m not sure why I got so impatient with this one.
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As familiar as I am with Nordic mysteries, this is my first historical novel and, other than they have a very famous king called Gustav, I knew nothing about Swedish history. The Wolf and the Watchman did a great job of reflecting the world in 1793, not only in Sweden but also the consequences of events taking place in other countries, such as the French Revolution. A watchman named Mikel Cardell finds a dead, mutilated body in a swamp. Lawyer Cecil Winge gets involved in the case and both work hard to find out who the victim was and who killed him. Before there were computers, DNA analysis or even running water, Cardell and Winge have a hard time finding out anything. There are other, apparently unrelated stories that end up being relevant to the overall plot. This is an atmospheric novel, very descriptive so it's a slow read. It is also very dark, depressing and not for the fainthearted, just because life back there was so hard. The stories combine into a consistent plot in a great way so it's really worth reading. 
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/Atria Books!
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I thought this book sounded really interesting, and it was, but it was also a bit too gruesome for my taste. I’d definitely recommend it for people who really enjoy gruesome horror.
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I saw this available on NetGalley and couldn't resist the setting. 1793 Stockholm! I've had a nascent interest in the thriller genre in general and Nordic Noir in particular, so I went for it.

So as a disclaimer, I am not the normal audience for this type of thing. 

That said, the setting did deliver. I loved the wintery atmosphere, the way the author set the scene with the recent history and current events--political intrigue! Whispers of revolution from France!

But the actual story was way too obscene for me. Each character was strange and brutal in it's own unique way. The ending was a little enigmatic. The actual crime that set the action in motion was extremely gruesome, and through the course of the story we hear how it all went down in gory detail. But honestly, the other characters' trials and tribulations  were just as cringe-inducing as the crime itself. I don't know how representative this is of the genre, but if you like your fiction with a generous dose of depravity, this may be for you.

To be fair, I feel like it is pretty well written, and quite a page turner -- but if it hadn't been a free ARC through NetGalley (so I wanted to follow through and review) I probably would have set this one aside due to graphic content.

(Posted to my goodreads)
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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.
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I had a very difficult time getting into this book.  The writing wasn't especially compelling and the story couldn't keep my attention.  After the glowing reviews I read, I'm pretty disappointed that I didn't like it.
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I'll admit that at first I was uncertain about how the different parts of the book would come together with their disparate focal points/characters, but I'm glad I stuck it out because Niklas Natt och Dag has constructed an intricate, fascinating murder mystery revolving around a limbless corpse found dumped in a body of water. I know nothing of Swedish history, but there's enough context here to give me what I need to follow the story. I do know a bit about the history of surgery, so I could tell that he really did his homework to describe how a doctor might go about performing such butchery and what he might think about preventing infection.

Even though this novel revolves around characters who are forced to endure the weight of the world's injustice (illness, rape/framed for a crime she didn't commit, war injuries), there is still some light and levity to be found along the way. Don't expect a straight forward detective novel, but enjoy the twisted journey here.
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The Wolf And The Watchman is an historical thriller. It's the type of book I normally like, but this one is different. It's a bleak gruesome violent story. I skimmed through because I knew I couldn't read it. Read only if you like violence and grit. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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A historical crime novel set in Sweden in the same time period as the French Revolution.

This novel is nicely constructed, has interesting, engaging characters, and has such a sense of time and place, I was freezing just reading it.

I knew from the get go that I had finally stumbled onto a book of substance, I strongly urge you to read it also. Yes, its gruesome at times, but not exaggerated.

Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and enjoy this incredible novel in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I didn't finish this book. I couldn't. Let me explain. Atmospheric 18th century Stockholm. Historical thriller. The Alienist goes to Sweden. Everything I adore in a crime/mystery book. But the depravity is a little too much for me (says the person who loved Crow Girl). And I had to stop. There's no way I can un-read the description of the horrific murder/torture that Winge and Cardell -- an unlikely investigative team -- must solve. When I arrived at Part II, that's when my relationship with this book ended, because here we meet the victim in a happier time. And we know what happens to him. I couldn't bear it.

Niklas Natt och Dag's writing is a work of art: sweeping, descriptive, intricate and compelling. I share this passage as an example: "Cardell wanders past the shacks on the other side of the bridge. Here families live one on top of the other in lean-tos and huts that look ready to collapse. They have good cause to fear the coming season: once winter has filled all corners of the poorhouse to bursting with the shivering bodies of the destitute, the frozen corpses of the rest will be piled high next to the graveyard until the ground thaws out."

When I think of Stockholm, I see the cobblestone streets and ochre-colored buildings of Gamla Stan (the old town) are home to the 13th-century Storkyrkan Cathedral, the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum, which focuses on the Nobel Prize. Ferries and sightseeing boats shuttle passengers between the islands.

His Stockholm is more like Dante’s nine rings of hell.

Here's another: "In the falling dusk, Cardell has made his way to the opposite end of town, a godforsaken part of the Meadowland in the area around the Northern Tollgate. He follows the Rill, the foul-smelling waterway that runs in brown curves between the houses, north, with the steep Brunke’s Ridge on his left and with the shores of the Bog to the right. The water stinks to high heaven but it is still no match for the Larder. A certain measure of running water and a larger overall volume is better suited to bear the constant influx of latrine and household waste."

My heart sank when I got to Part II, I wasn’t two pages in when I realized we’re about to learn of the mutilated, tortured murdered man with the beautiful blond hair, I hoped I had the stomach for it. 

Unfortunately, I did not. This is a searing, soaring historical thriller for others who can take it. Me? I'll be switching to cozy mysteries for a while. Cats solving crimes are the new hot thing now according to Vulture:
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I love this book!  I was very surprised at how much I actually love this book.  It was such an interesting story and very well written.  The author pulled me into the story and I was emotionally involved with the characters.  This is the best book I have read in a long time.  I don't give many books 5 stars, but this book is defiantly a solid 5 stars.
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The Wolf and the Watchman takes the reader on a fateful journey into late 18th century Stockholm. The city is abuzz with conspiracy rumors and is divided sharply between the haves and have-nots. Niklas deserves an applause for his descriptive skills. In his deft hands, Stockholm—with its golden colored majestic buildings—is a living, breathing creature. He skillfully juxtaposes poverty and squalor of the destitute with the decadence and corruption of the affluent. The rich, as usual, are blind to the conditions of the poor. Consequently, I could feel an undercurrent of an uprising throughout the novel. Amidst this charged atmosphere, Winge and Cardell must deliver justice.

I have seldom seen such fantastic character development in a thriller. The fully developed backstory of every character provides them depth and fit seamlessly into the narrative. Cardell with his enormous strength, cynical disposition, and tendency to be foul-mouthed at the drop of a hat is a perfect foil for the stoic and physically weak Cecil Winge. Anna Stina was a major revelation. Her story mesmerized me. 

Niklas builds the tempo slowly, like a spider painstakingly spinning its web. Once I was caught, I couldn’t stop reading until I turned the last page. Moreover, the villain here is truly a monster, and Niklas provides a fascinating insight into his depraved mind. 

The Wolf and the Watchman is a terrific historical thriller that deserves to be on the shelves of every historical fiction and thriller enthusiast. I relished reading about the seedy underbelly of Stockholm and loved the whodunit.

The author largely spares us the brutality of reading through all the ordeals that the victim faced. Nevertheless, this book is intended solely for a mature audience.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a free ARC of this novel. I opted to provide an honest review of this book.
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“[watchmen are], most often lame, maimed, or mangled in some way that makes them unsuitable for other positions within the city watch or the military. Night and day, they chase beggars, petty thieves, vagrants, and prostitutes—everyone who does not serve any purpose in the eyes of the city governance.” 

 In 1793 Stockholm the one-armed watchman Mickell Cardell drags a mutilated body out of the river. Cecil Winge is a lawyer and detective dying (in gory detail) from consumption.  The police enlist the aid of Winge in identifying the dead man and he is assisted in his investigation by Cardell. The other characters include Kristopher Blix, a 17 year old who wants to become a doctor, and Anna-Stina Knapp, a young woman who winds up in a workhouse after she is orphaned. The lives of each of these characters eventually intersect in an intricate plot. 

I like historical fiction, but this is the darkest book of its kind that I have read. And by “dark” I mean sickening and twisted. Every time I thought that things might be turning around for a character I was wrong and their life got even bleaker. Without giving away any major plot points, prisoners are stomped to death, insects are mutilated, someone literally climbs through a corpse, someone else defecates on a grave, there’s a perverse orgy and a botched beheading. And then there is the story of that mutilated corpse.  Details of the treatment of the victim before his death were sadistic, sick, heartless and very disturbing.  This was a good mystery, but I really think the author might have a problem. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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I honestly didn't care for it. Why did I finish?! Probably because the writing did'nt 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?!
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This book was written originally in Swedish, but has been translated into beautiful top-level English. The writing provides a detailed picture of the ardors of life during the 18th century, creating details to stimulate all of the senses. The story is told in three parts which join together bit-by-bit as the reader puts together the pieces of a strange and disquieting puzzle. The narrative begins with the discovery of a maimed corpse in the foul lake that acts as the dumping ground for the city of Stockholm, which is called the city between the bridges. The reader I led through the lives of people from all levels of society as an unlikely combination of a near-dead consumptive and a one-armed veteran pursue the identity of the corpse and the person responsible for its mutilation. The story reveals much about the life of people in the eighteenth century and illuminates the depths of their personalities and relationships. There are many good reasons for you to read this book. The writing is a work of art. The characters are developed in great depth. When the separate parts draw together, the book ends with a wonderful twist. Even after you know how it ends, it is worth reading again for the pleasure of the journey.
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This is a very suspenseful historical mystery/thriller. Would highly recommend it to those who like books like the Alienist. It has a unique Swedish flair and will do quite well in bookstores!
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The Wolf and the Watchman is mysterious, dark,’s an intense read. I enjoyed it although it was slow at times. I liked the historical fiction aspect of the story and had to know the ending and outcome of the story, which compelled me to avidly read through it as quickly as possible. Read this one if you don’t mind violence and are craving a read that will captivate you.
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This was a great read!  It’s a wonderfully dark, brutal, page turning historical mystery!  I was transported to 18th century Sweden. The subject matter is rather bleak, but Niklas Natt och Dag does bleak proud! Would definitely read this author again. Highly recommended!
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