A gruesomely mutilated body is fished out of a local lake by a night watchman. So begins this dark mystery set in Stockholm in the late 1700's.
The main characters, the aforementioned night watchman, (Cardell), and a lawyer dying from consumption, (Winge), were fascinating and multi-layered. Winge hasn't much time left in this world, and he makes the investigation of this case his only reason for living. Cardell, an injured war veteran looking for self worth and coming up short, is turning to the bottle instead. This mystery provides a reason for him to stay sober. Mostly. Together, they wander the disgusting streets of Stockholm, hunting their murderer. Will they find him/her? Will Winge live long enough to see the perpetrator tried for the crime? Will Cardell be able to keep himself out of the bottle long enough to aid Winge in his only goal? You'll have to read this to find out!
I enjoyed reading about this time in Stockholm's history. Admittedly, I do not know much about the city or the country, but I learned a little bit reading this book. I learned that the city, much like others of its size around the world at that time, was a seething pit of disease. Piles of excrement lying around, chamber pots emptied out the window-I think you get the drift. Whenever I read about living in a city during this time period I wonder how humanity survived at all.
On top of the filth of the city, its inhabitants were often entertained by the worst society has to offer. Gambling, prostitution, and ruining the reputations of others just for fun-these were the popular habits of the day. A woman, left widowed, or worse yet? Impregnated before marriage? They were left in circumstances beyond dire. Combat veterans-especially those who lost limbs or those who were mentally impaired due to the harsh circumstances of war? They fared no better. Most people were so involved in their own survival, (no small feat!) there was no time or thought put into charity for others.
Regarding the solving of the gruesome murder, this book reminded me quite a lot of THE ALIENIST. Winge was especially interested in hearing the motives from the killers themselves in his past cases, and he wants to know what made this perpetrator tick as well. While THE ALIENIST was heavily involved with crime investigation techniques, Winge was much more interested in the psychological aspects of criminals. So am I, so this viewpoint worked perfectly for me.
The way this tale unfolded was intriguing-the first section involving Winge and Cardell, the others involving other people with whom we were not familiar. It kept me reading because I needed to see how all of this was going to tie together. I think the telling was my favorite aspect of this story-well, this and the main characters.
I finished up the book having developed a serious liking and respect for Cardell. Both he and Winge were men of honor, something which seemed to be in short supply during this time period. I wanted to know more about the Eumenides and a few other characters as well. I am really hoping for a sequel here, people!
I devoured this book as quickly as I could. As I said above, I was fascinated by how the author told the story, the pacing was excellent, and the mystery a good one. I especially liked the darkness of the tale and how the author did not shy away from the brutality of life at the time. I suspect that the gruesome nature of this story, and the author's unflinching telling of it, may turn some readers off. But for this reader, lover of dark fiction that I am, it was nearly perfect and left me wanting more. Please, bring on a sequel, sir!
Highly recommended! Get your copy here: THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN
*Thank you to Atria and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*