Casting the real-life Swedish preacher Laestadius as perceptive amateur sleuth, To Cook a Bear evokes the freezing wastes of the nineteenth-century Arctic circle as the case of a missing milkmaid fuels fear and superstition in a suspicious closed community.
Shortlisted for the CWA Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger 2021.
The legendary Laestadius becomes a kind of Sherlock Holmes in this exceptional historical crime novel.
It is 1852, and in Sweden's far north, deep in the Arctic Circle, charismatic preacher and Revivalist Lars Levi Laestadius impassions a poverty-stricken congregation with visions of salvation. But local leaders have reason to resist a shift to temperance over alcohol.
Jussi, the young Sami boy Laestadius has rescued from destitution and abuse, becomes the preacher's faithful disciple on long botanical treks to explore the flora and fauna. Laestadius also teaches him to read and write - and to love and fear God.
When a milkmaid goes missing deep in the forest, the locals suspect a predatory bear is at large. A second girl is attacked, and the sheriff is quick to offer a reward for the bear's capture. Using early forensics and daguerreotype, Laestadius and Jussi find clues that point to a far worse killer on the loose, even as they are unaware of the evil closing in around them.
To Cook a Bear explores how communities turn inwards, how superstition can turn to violence, and how the power of language can be transformative in a richly fascinating mystery.
Translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Number of pages: 464
Weight: 300 g
Dimensions: 196 x 128 x 32 mm
'This book is a masterpiece . . . The legendary Laestadius becomes a kind of Sherlock Holmes in this extraordinary historical crime novel . . . [Niemi] creates images, smells, sounds, atmospheres and characters that make this book a truly extraordinary reading experience.' - Dagbladet (Sweden)
'Superb suspense! . . . a multifaceted, mysterious and engaging novel . . . To Cook A Bear irresistibly engages the reader and provides a ruthless and almost physically palpable portrayal of a time that seems endlessly long ago . . . simply a great literary experience' - V.G. (Sweden)
'It's captivating as well as illuminating; several historical figures from the birth of Laestadianism appear, and the murder mysteries keep the reader entranced throughout the almost 400 pages . . . Mikael Niemi has written an intensely entertaining story' - Weekendavisen (Sweden)
'The pleasure of To Cook a Bear is twofold: On the one hand, one experiences an almost criminal thrill of voyeurism as Jussi and the Pastor investigate the mysterious assaults. On the other hand, one is transported into a strange time and fascinating world that is both beautiful and brutal. The descriptions of the landscape and the changing of the seasons instil an urgent desire to crank up the time machine . . . that is how it feels when you finish To Cook a Bear: as if the world just got a little bit bigger' - Politiken (Denmark)
'Niemi's writing - that of a narrator and a poet, a dreamer and a storyteller - brushes the highest peaks of the most delicate lyricism, rising strongly out of the abyss of the darkest mystery' - Corriere della Sera (Italy)
'Niemi plots a composite story where the philosophical novel, the crime novel, the historical novel and the coming-of-age story coexist, complementing one another instead of getting in each other's way' - La Stampa (Italy)
'A masterpiece of narrative' - La Vanguardia (Spain)
'Niemi's thriller has such a suggestive atmosphere -stifling in its sweating puritanism, yet somehow lyrical, with an incredibly well conceived plot" laura ricci, Il Sole 24 Ore' - Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy)
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