cover image The Wolf and the Watchman

The Wolf and the Watchman

Niklas Natt och Dag, trans. from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg. Atria, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9677-5

The discovery of a torso in a lake outside Stockholm drives Natt och Dag’s masterly first novel, set in 1793. The human remains prove to belong to a man whose limbs were severed one at a time over several months. Identifying the victim and his killer falls to Cecil Winge, an idealistic attorney who assists the police. Winge enlists the aid of Mickel Cardell, a veteran of a fruitless war with Russia in which he lost an arm. Now working as a watchman, Mickel retrieved the cadaver from the water. The pair have few clues to work with, but a piece of fabric with unusual markings wrapped around the body leads them to the Eumenides, an ostensibly charitable upper-class organization that meets in a building that houses a bordello. 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. Agent: Frederico Ambrosini, Salomonsson Agency (Sweden). (Mar.)