remarkable debut novel... Gradually and skilfully, the author pulls together the disparate strands of his tale and brings it to a bleakly ironic conclusion... Like most interesting fiction, The Wolf and the Watchman resists easy categorisation. At times it reads like a Nordic noir thriller transported back to the late 18th century, but there is much more to its narrative than the solution of a murder mystery... The unrelenting harshness of Natt och Dag’s vision might be off-putting to some... However, there is no mistaking the intensity and imagination with which he summons up a society mired in corruption and inequality.
This is certainly an impressive thriller – well paced, well structured and deeply unsettling. But when the final explanations arrive, after a twist or two in the closing pages, the results are a little underwhelming and overworked – political scheming and psychological angst, grand theories on the state of man, a fiendish masterplan and a love story all in one.
In the end, though, it is the novel’s lack of depth rather than its grisliness that undoes it. Natt och Dag unspools his story backwards in a structure reminiscent of Iain Pears’s An Instance of the Fingerpost, but The Wolf and the Watchmanmanages neither the finely drawn characterisations nor the fiendishly clever plotting that marked out Pears’s masterful novel. While Anna Stina, the young girl unjustly accused of whoring, is a sensitive creation, Cardell and Winge remain frustratingly two‑dimensional, evolving little over the course of the novel. The historical digressions that pepper the text are vividly conjured but also slow the pace. Several plot twists prove unconvincingly convenient.
As a crime novel, Niklas Natt och Dag’s debut offers conventional fare... The investigation, however, is itself something of a red herring: Natt och Dag is far more interested in exploring Swedish society in the late 18th century... 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.
Cecil Winge and Mickel Cardell, an engaging investigative double act, set out to find out who would do such a thing... What the two men uncover is stomach-churningly horrible. The author paints an unflinching portrait of history’s victims — the poor, the diseased and the abused. There is grinding poverty, sexual slavery and venereal disease. The book’s flaw is a tendency to clunky exposition. Admittedly, my knowledge of Enlightenment-era Stockholm is not what it could be, but characters telling each other historical facts is irksome. That aside, The Wolf and the Watchman is a gripping, shocking read.