Reviewed by Margaret Tomlinson
in late eighteenth-century Sweden, The
Wolf and the Watchman is a tale of brutality, survival and hope.
Cardell, a night watchman who lost his left arm in a disastrous naval battle,
has a sense of honor, a quick temper, and a wooden replacement arm both useful and dangerous in a fight. Cecil Winge is a lawyer with a sharp mind and
a history of being helpful to the police. He is dying of consumption and has a sense of honor. The characteristic the two men share is not in ample
supply in the Stockholm of their time, but it's the main reason they find
themselves reluctantly working together to find and bring to justice the killer
of a man whose partially decomposed body, missing arms, legs, tongue and eyes,
Cardell fishes out of a lake.
is justice? readers will wonder along the way, as a parade of evildoers prove
to have been as much victims as victimizers. An uncertain national government in
the year after King Gustav III's assassination does not help matters. Winge is
under pressure to find the murderer quickly and discreetly, because the head of
the police expects to be replaced shortly by an official more keen to enforce
censorship regulations than to catch killers.
women are keys to solving the crime, and the novel moves backward to tell their stories, as well as others. Especially sympathetic is Anna Stina
Knapp, a young women who clings determinedly to every shred of hope she can muster
in a system as unjust and sadistic as the murderer Cardell and Winge are
hunting. Readers with the stomach to immerse themselves in a cruel and violent
setting will find The Wolf and the Watchman a gripping novel
with enough surprises and sudden reverses to keep them glued to the pages.
(2017 in the original Swedish, English translation 2019; 373 pages)