cover image Wolf Winter

Wolf Winter

Cecilia Ekbäck. Perseus/Weinstein, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-1-60286-252-4

Set in 1717, Ekbäck’s diverting debut focuses on a Finnish family—Maija Harmaajärvi; her husband, Paavo; and their daughters, 14-year-old Frederika and six-year-old Dorotea—as they start a new life in Swedish Lapland. One day while herding goats, the girls discover a body. Their neighbors believe the dead man, Eriksson, was killed by wolves or a bear, but Maija is convinced that he was murdered and aims to prove it. Ekbäck does a good job depicting a terrifying snowstorm, the conflicting cultures of settlers and Lapps, and the endless winter darkness. But the novel also contains a disorienting mix of obsolete words and current phrasing, realistic glimpses of pioneer hardships, and far-fetched plot devices involving the local bishop and a pack of wolves that may or may not exist. Two resident ghosts—Maija’s grandmother, who constantly offers advice, and the reincarnated Eriksson, who prods Frederika to unearth his killer—add to the incongruity. Agents: Janelle Andrews and Rachel Mills, Peters, Fraser & Dunlop (U.K.). (Jan.)