John Murray is to make a "gripping" Swedish bestseller set in 18th-century Stockholm, acquired just ahead of last year's Frankfurt Book Fair, its lead debut for 2019.
As previously reported, UK, Commonwealth and Europe rights in Niklas Natt och Dag's historical crime novel The Wolf and the Watchman were snapped up by publisher Mark Richards via the Salomonsson Agency just days ahead of Frankfurt Book Fair last year, after having proven itself a bestseller in hardback, paperback and e-book in its native Sweden. The book rapidly picked up traction during FBF last year and has since sold into 30 territories worldwide.
Originally published by Forum in Sweden last September under the title 1793 (the year in which it is set), it has sold over 100,000 copies on its home turf thanks to the enthusiastic handselling of Swedish booksellers, according to John Murray. Set in Stockholm, the novel chronicles both a murder investigation and the radical ideas of the Enlightenment that begun to emerge during the period.
John Murray has now confirmed the book as its lead debut for next year, scheduling its UK release for February 2019 when it will publish as a £12.99 hardback. Predicting the historical murder mystery could be "the next big literary hit from Europe", the publisher called the tale "an absorbing and engrossing depiction of Stockholm and its cruel underbelly at the end of the 18th century" and "a brilliantly atmospheric portrait of a society and continent in turmoil".
In the book, setting the scene in 1793 Stockholm, King Gustav of Sweden has been assassinated, years of foreign wars have emptied the treasuries, and the realm is governed by a self-interested elite, leaving its citizens to suffer. On the streets among the destitute, malcontent and paranoia abound. A body is found in the city’s swamp by one-armed watchman Mickel Cardell and the case is handed over to investigator Cecil Winge who is dying of consumption. Together, the unlikely duo strive to establish the identity of the dead man, and the nature of the crime that took his life, becoming embroiled in a world of guttersnipes and thieves, mercenaries and conmen, and a trail of clues that uncover a brutal world that lies beneath Stockholm’s gilded surface.
The book's author Natt och Dag has a lineage steeped in history, as a member of the oldest surviving noble family in Sweden (dating back to circa 1280). His ancestors were responsible for the murder of the rebel Engelbrekt in 1436, commanded the army that lost Stockholm to the Danes in 1520, and were forced into exile after having demanded the abdication of Charles XIV in 1810.
Richards said it was testament to the quality of Natt och Dag's manuscript it managed to stand out in spite of the mass of submissions editors are inundated with pre-Frankfurt Book Fair.
"I started The Wolf and the Watchman a few days before Frankfurt, when manuscripts arrive quicker than you can open them, and only the most compelling survive," said Richards. "But immediately I lost myself in it – the world Niklas conjures is so vivid, the characters so alive and the storytelling so assured, and the novel is both a brilliantly satisfying narrative and an engrossing portrait of a society and a continent in turmoil."
Natt och Dag, the book's author, commented: "The fact that John Murray has elected to publish The Wolf and the Watchman in Great Britain is an immense joy to me, and also brings to mind how large a span of my fictional life has been a British one. I've prowled the smog with Sherlock and Watson, wept with Ophelia and Desdemona, been one of Alex's droogs, stolen hats off bobbies with Bertie and Gussie, ran through the grass with Hazel and Fiver, sat at the round table next Galahad and Lancelot, fought Boney at sea with Aubrey, Maturin and Horatio. I hope that any British reader might find familiar echoes in my work."