Wolf Winter

Cecilia Ekback

Wolf Winter
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Wolf Winter

Cecilia Ekback

‘Like a silent fall of snow; suddenly, the reader is enveloped…visually acute, skilfully written; it won’t easily erase its tracks in the reader’s mind.’ - Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies

There are six homesteads on Blackasen Mountain. A day’s journey away lies the empty town. It comes to life just once, in winter, when the Church summons her people through the snows. Then, even the oldest enemies will gather. But now it is summer, and new settlers are come. It is their two young daughters who find the dead man, not half an hour’s walk from their cottage. The father is away. And whether stubborn, or stupid, or scared for her girls, the mother will not let it rest.

To the wife who is not concerned when her husband does not come home for three days; to the man who laughs when he hears his brother is dead; to the priest who doesn’t care; she asks and asks her questions, digging at the secrets of the mountain. They say a wolf made those wounds. But what wild animal cuts a body so clean?


Swedish Lapland, June 1717 (note, this reader virtually never reads things set in the past): Finns Maija and Paavo take their children Frederika and Dorotea to Sweden, away from the fear that has beaten Paavo into a shadow of the man he once was. They settle in Lapland, beside the mountain Blackåsen, ill-equipped for living in an isolated and storm-racked area. They have been there only a short time when the two girls take their goats for a walk and stumble upon the body of a man. Wolves, or a bear, Maija tells them. But she knows it is not true. And so their new home becomes one not of hope, but one of fear renewed, with new atmospheric tension and a landscape as brutal to your home and body as it appears enchanting in a painting.

Maija is a female protagonist so organically heroic that she seems not at all out of place in these long past times. Things need to get done and Maija is the one to do them in this land of endless days that in winter turn into eternal nights, where the men are too trapped by their land, their anxiety and their stoic manner to do anything but shake their heads at a torn-up body in a glade. And so she is the believable midwife turned farmer turned 1700s-era forensic investigator when no one else bothered to try. As those around her say, the mountain is bad, but is it the people on it who are bad, or is it the land itself? The sorcery trials of the past still have a grip on everyone’s lives, but the question is whether Maija’s staunch faith in reality and God is the way, or if it is blocking her ability to see the truth. I was up until 3am reading this haunting thriller, but then it was as dark as the book itself. My advice: read it in the sun.

Fiona Hardy blogs about Crime Fiction at readingkills.com and puts together the Dead Write column for the Readings Monthly newsletter.

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