Today it’s my review for the blog tour of To Cook A Bear. Big thank you to MacLehose Press for letting me to be part of the tour!
The legendary Læstadius 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 Læstadius 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 Læstadius has rescued from destitution and abuse, becomes the preacher’s faithful disciple on long botanical treks to explore the flora and fauna. Læstadius 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, Læstadius 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.
A milkmaid is found dead. Everyone assumes she’s killed by a bear. The bear is captured, but somehow a second girl is attacked… Lars Levi Læstadius and young Sami boy Jussi, who he has taken under his wing, don’t believe a bear was responsible. Lars is determined to seek out the truth, who is the real killer?
Mikael Niemi writes brilliantly. The vivid descriptions in the book really captured my imagination, and it wasn’t difficult to imagine myself in nineteenth-century Sweden. The rich depictions really transport you to another time and place, which can be a rarity as it’s challenging task!
I enjoyed the fact that the novel has elements of real-life events, which I think added to the reality felt from the descriptions. The mixture of historical fiction, crime and religion were something I was surprised by – I didn’t expect the varied themes to work so seamlessly! As I’ve said before, it’s always interesting to learn from a novel and I knew nothing about botany or the somewhat brutal reality of the mistreatment of women during this time period.
The relationship that develops between Læstadius and Jussi is a special one. It’s lovely to read about their very pronounced journey together, one that reminds me of father-and-son, and to see Jussi grow as a character.
Overall, I think the book is really quite a special read and unlike anything I’ve really come across. If you’d like to check out the rest of the reviews for this blog tour, you can do so by searching the handles on the banner at the top of this post.
Until next time,