It’s early to be pegging the year’s best books, but The Wolf and the Watchman,”Niklas Natt och Dag’s stunning debut, is sure to be one of them ... Natt och Dag brings a reporter’s eye for detail to this feverishly dark historical thriller ... The Wolf and the Watchman is exceedingly grim and often grisly, but, in the elegant translation by Ebba Segerberg, it’s never lurid ... The Wolf and the Watchman is a cerebral, immersive page-turner whose detective is a rationalist trapped in a world ruled by superstition, fear, and men whose humanity has been debased and erased as surely as Karl Johan’s ... The last 50 pages provide plenty of twists to satisfy thrill-starved readers, but it’s the final haunting sentence that raises gooseflesh and leaves one reaching to turn up the light.
What's better than an ornate period piece with style to spare? One that includes a murder mystery. Oh, and boy is it a riveting mystery ... One of the great feats of The Wolf and the Watchman is the painstaking description of this decadent world and the many careful political details which are embroidered along the page ... Unlike other books which may be set in the past, but where the characters act like modern people, everyone in The Wolf and the Watchman feels like they belong in this era of wigs and spies, chamber pots and dung caking the streets ... A bit of Patrick Süskind's The Perfume and a bit of Sherlock Holmes, this wolf has some bite to it.
Already a prize-winning bestseller in Sweden, the grisly but moral literary page-turner is set to be published in 31 countries ... Even for its author, the book resists categorisation ... no more a straightforward detective novel than Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, one of Natt och Dag’s favourite tales ... the latest novel to offer the rich mix of a heightened historical background and the core mechanisms of a mystery story.
As a crime novel, Niklas Natt och Dag’s debut offers conventional fare: the delicate, cerebral Winge and the pugnacious, one-armed ex-military man Cardell are a Swedish variation on Holmes and Watson ... Natt och Dag is far more interested in exploring Swedish society in the late 18th century ... Indeed, the novel seems to be influenced as much by Dickens and Balzac as it is by Conan Doyle. Natt och Dag pulls no punches in describing the squalor and abject poverty in which most of Stockholm’s population exist ... With such a vividly drawn backdrop to compete against, the killer pursued by Winge and Cardell grows luridly gothic, his sickening modus operandi so meticulously observed in every repellent detail that it begins to resemble torture porn. But perhaps Natt och Dag believes that desperate times call for desperate measures ... Vividly written, The Wolf and the Watchman is a superbly detailed historical mystery that delivers an uncommonly bleak variation on the genre’s pursuit of truth and justice.
A strong stomach is required as the evocatively named Natt och Dag (in English, Night and Day) unfolds his dark tale ... The result, a prize winner in Sweden, is an unconventional mashup: part murder mystery, part gothic chiller, part noirish picaresque and entirely, unrelentingly grisly. Harrowing sea battles, botched public executions, savage whippings, hands burned to stumps by potash and lime: Natt och Dag spares us nothing, detailing horror after horror in his unflinchingly muscular prose ... In the end, though, it is the novel’s lack of depth rather than its grisliness that undoes it ... The historical digressions that pepper the text are vividly conjured but also slow the pace. Several plot twists prove unconvincingly convenient. Most problematically, the psychological climax of the story lacks the profundity that would justify its excesses.
Engrossing and gross. The imagery is vividly conveyed and not for the faint of heart or stomach. Yet for those who like their mysteries dark, this is a standout. The characterization is excellent, as is the evocation of eighteenth-century Stockholm, an uncommon historical setting that provides a vibrant backdrop for this unusual mystery. Natt och Dag’s side-plots dovetail neatly, his pacing is skillful, and he explores with aplomb his novel’s main theme, Homo homini lupus est —Man is wolf to man.
... brutal and haunting and sometimes exceedingly gruesome, anchored by a powerful sense of place and a memorable cast of characters ... The Wolf and the Watchman is a bleak, miserable, compelling novel. You’ll only want to read it once, but you won’t soon forget it.
The sense of a ticking clock pervades Niklas Natt och Dag’s swift-paced, cinematic first novel, which was named Best Debut by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers last year. Though they seem to be the oddest of couples—one a man of action, the other a man of deliberation—Cardell and Winge prove to be an effective team as they crisscross political, cultural and economic strata to establish the dead man’s identity, and ultimately try to effect some rough form of justice ... In some ways, The Wolf and the Watchman calls to mind another auspicious debut murder mystery set in an unfamiliar place and time: Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It’s been nearly 40 years since that foreign-language historical thriller captured the world’s imagination, thoroughly engrossing readers and propelling its author into international stardom. So we’re about due, and Natt och Dag is certainly a worthy candidate.
The Wolf and the Watchman is gruesome and chilling, soaked in blood, bile and depravity; its craven, opportunistic monsters all the more monstrous for being human ... [Natt och Dag] offers a tantalizing mystery, a foreboding, claustrophobic sense of place and a pair of unforgettable investigators ... Natt och Dag is fond of... overblown speech, but there’s no arguing the truth of the insight.
Ideal for readers who enjoy crime thrillers, nail-biting suspense, and historical period dramas. While this debut novel's violent imagery may be too much for some, it's an exciting addition to the crime thriller genre and will leave readers on the edge of their seats.
Masterly ... The book’s structure, which includes flashbacks and multiple perspectives, will remind many of Iain Pears’s An Instance of the Fingerpost, and Natt och Dag uses this structure to heighten suspense and deepen characterizations. The Swedish Academy of Crime Writers named this the best debut novel of 2017, and U.S. readers will be likewise impressed.
Natt och Dag writes sensory, horror-inducing descriptions of the lives and deaths of the poor inhabitants of Stockholm. At the same time, his characters almost spring off the page, they are so human and so fully realized. Natt och Dag doesn’t apologize for human nature, nor does he excuse our crimes and basest cruelties, but his deep dive into the dark corners of our psyches, as well as this harsh time in history, is both chilling and thought-provoking ... Relentless, well-written, and nearly impossible to put down.