What’s better than reading book that’s free with Kindle unlimited? Reading a book that’s free that’s also actually quite good!
My experience with Kindle Unlimited books has been a mixed bag. Some are enjoyable enough, although forgettable. Some have just plain not been worth the time I spent reading them. However, I stumbled across a gem call The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt Och Dag, and downloaded it because the title and synopsis seemed interesting.
It ended being a hell of a good read. Set in Stockholm, Sweden in the late 18th century, it follows a murder investigation by two fundamentally damaged protagonists. Mikel Cardell is an ex-solider and current Watchman, who spends his days self-medicating PTSD with alcohol and steadfastly ignoring his watch duties. Cecil Winge is a lawyer ahead of his time, believing that the accused should have their story heard and receive a fair trial. Winge is also in the late stages of Consumption (Tuberculosis). When Cardell discovers the corpse of a young man who has had his arms, legs, eyes, tongue, and teeth systematically and surgically removed, it kicks of an investigation with Winge that leads to some very dark parts of Stockholm’s society.
The interesting this about this book is that only a small portion (perhaps a third or a quarter) is about these two men and their investigation, which opens and closes out the narrative. The middle portion of the book provides point-of-view writing from two key individuals involved with (but not necessarily guilty of) the disturbing crime. From these perspectives, and indeed from the whole book, there is also a historical narrative detailing what life may have truly been like in Sweden in the 1700’s. The descriptions of the towns and people, the influence of events such as the French revolution, and the descriptions of the rampant disease that effect all people (especially the poor and downtrodden masses) seem like they could have been ripped from the pages of historical documents and given life.
Ultimately, the book is less about the investigations of Winge and Cardell, and more about their reactions to it. The monster who performed the murder is one of many antagonists in the story, with some of the others being systemic corruption in authorities and leaders, the divide between rich and poor, disease, violence and rape, a legal system that pays little attention to the guilt or innocence of the accused, and the indifference of man to his fellow man. The investigation is simply a lens through which these issues are magnified.
The Wolf and the Watchman is not a typical genre for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you have Kindle Unlimited, I’d highly recommend paying the $0.00 and giving it a shot. If not, if the description and this extremely amateur review make it sound interesting, it may be worth a purchase.
A word of caution – this book is a slow burner. The main story itself could be told in a fraction of the pages. The beauty (and often, ugliness) comes from the world around the story, the characters that are met, and the stories that are told along the way. This is not an action packed romp through the streets of Sweden, but a steady dissertation on the good and bad contained in each person and the society they inhabit.