Review 1797: The Historians

Like her previous two novels, Cecilia Ekbäck has set The Historians partially on the fictional Blackåsen Mountain, a stand-in for the Kirina Mine in far northern Sweden. This novel is set during World War II.

In Lapland, a Sami girl goes missing. She is not the only one. Near Blackåsen, a miner decides to find out what is going on in the secret mine, the one that is supposedly out of bounds. He hopes to find members of the Norwegian resistance there, so that he can help them against the Germans, Sweden being neutral. Later, he is found dead.

In Stockholm, Laura Dahlgren is approached by her best friend Britta’s Sami friend Andreas. He tells her Britta has disappeared, and he is worried. Britta and Laura were part of a group of special history students studying with Professor Lindahl at Uppsala University. After the others took up careers, Britta remained, working on her thesis. Laura thought Britta wanted to tell her something the last time she saw her, but she did not. Now not only is Britta missing, but so is her thesis.

Jens Regnell, the secretary of a government minister, is perplexed when the ministry archivist, Daniel Jonsson, asks about some phone calls to the Danish and Norwegian foreign ministers that were not logged. In fact, he doesn’t know how one could circumvent the logging. When he tries to find out about the calls, he is shut down and then Daniel is replaced, reported to be ill. Next thing he knows, Daniel is dead, a supposed suicide. Oh, and Jens receives in the mail a thesis by a student named Britta Hallberg.

This novel is genuinely thrilling, as Laura reconvenes the friends in her study group to find out what happened to Britta and what was in her thesis. I started out reading this novel when I had to take a break from reading another novel on my iPad because it needed a charge, but I ended up putting that one aside completely, even after my iPad charged, until I finished this one.

In the Month of the Midnight Sun

Wolf Winter


Day 1027: In the Month of the Midnight Sun

Cover for In the Month of the Midnight SunI enjoyed Cecilia Ekbäck’s first novel, Wolf Winter, very much, so I was delighted to hear that her second was out and ordered it right away. This novel is also set in the Lapland area of Sweden, near the fictional Blackåsen Mountain, but it takes place about 75 years later, in 1856.

Magnus Stille is an administrator at the Bergskollegium, the Swedish Board of Mines. His father-in-law, who is also the state minister of justice, asks him to travel north to investigate a situation that has developed. Three men have been murdered, apparently by a Lapp. The minister wants to make sure the murder is not related to a Lapp uprising, which could put a huge mining agreement in jeopardy.

At the last minute before Magnus leaves, the minister asks him to take along his sister-in-law, Louisa. Louisa has gotten into some kind of trouble, and her father is apparently throwing her out of the house.

These two characters act as narrators of the novel, along with Büjá, an older Lapp woman who is grieving for her husband. Also speaking at times is Nila, Büjá’s dead husband.

Magnus has not been asked to go all the way to Blackåsen Mountain, but when he meets the Lapp, he is not sure he believes he is the murderer. So, he decides to walk all the way to the remote village. Once he gets there, he feels there is something terribly wrong at the foot of the mountain.

Like Wolf Winter, In the Month of the Midnight Sun features tension between the native ways of the Lapp and the settlers’ Christianity. It also has a supernatural element to it. The unusual setting makes these novels really interesting, as does Ekbäck’s talent for depicting her characters.

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Day 801: Wolf Winter

Cover for Wolf WinterBest Book of the Week!
It is 1717. A few days earlier, Maija and her family arrived at their new home on the side of Blackåsen Mountain in the Lapland area of Sweden. They moved away from Finland because Maija’s husband Paavo, formerly a fisherman, began to see dead men in the water. But here on the mountain he is ineffective and frightened.

Maija’s daughters Fredericka and Dorothea are out with the goats when they find the body of a man. Although the nearby settlers are quick to claim an animal attack, it is clear to Maija that the man, Eriksson, was killed by a person using a lance. She has already felt an unease on the mountain and believes they must find the murderer. Unfortunately for the search, Eriksson seems to have been disliked by all.

Maija’s family has had some experience with the older ways, even though they are forbidden by the church. Fredericka, however, was being instructed in them by her grandmother without her mother’s knowledge. Fredericka finds herself being haunted by Eriksson, who wants her to find his murderer, and tries to seek help in the supernatural from the Lapps.

Another important character is the new priest for the region. He comes to visit the area and tries to help with the investigation. At first, he seems cold and unready for a position in such a wilderness. But he is actually bewildered. He was a court priest and a friend to the king until he was abruptly sent away from court.

When the snow comes early and kills the harvest, Paavo decides to travel to the coast to earn some money. Maija is left to struggle through a particularly harsh winter with the girls. There are wolves on the mountain, and some of the settlers believe the mountain itself is evil. No one has found Eriksson’s killer, but Maija is still looking.

link to NetgalleyThis novel creates an atmospheric, fully realized world that captured me from the first words. Although it is centered around a mystery, it is just as successful as a historical novel, with a touch of the mystical, set in an unusual place and time. You can easily imagine the cold and hardships. This novel is excellent.

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