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To Cook a Bear

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780857058966

Price: £10.99

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“So much to relish here . . . the plot is gripping, and the writing is just lovely!” DIANE SETTERFIELD, author of Once Upon A River

“The year’s most memorable narrator . . . An unusual and intriguing crime story” SUNDAY TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“Niemi succeeds in constructing a story that works as a murder mystery and as a compelling study of a dangerously inward-looking community” SUNDAY TIMES

“A riveting, psychologically astute mystery . . . It is not to be missed” BOOKLIST

“An original and gripping crime story” THE TIMES


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.

“Superb suspense . . . Simply a great literary experience!” V.G. (Sweden)

“A masterpiece of narrative” La Vanguardia (Spain)

“A philosophical novel, a crime novel, a historical novel and a coming-of-age story complement one another” La Stampa (Italy)

“One is transported into a strange time and a fascinating world that is both beautiful and brutal” Politiken (Denmark)

“Formidable delivery . . . Unlike anything else you have read . . . An incredible novel” Adresseavisen

Translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner


This book is a masterpiece . . . The legendary Læstadius becomes a kind of Sherlock Holmes in this extraordinary historical crime novel . . . [Niemi] creates images, smells, sounds, atmospheres and characters that make this book a truly extraordinary reading experience.
Dagbladet (Sweden)
Superb suspense! . . . a multifaceted, mysterious and engaging novel . . . To Cook A Bear irresistibly engages the reader and provides a ruthless and almost physically palpable portrayal of a time that seems endlessly long ago . . . simply a great literary experience
V.G. (Sweden)
It's captivating as well as illuminating; several historical figures from the birth of Laestadianism appear, and the murder mysteries keep the reader entranced throughout the almost 400 pages . . . Mikael Niemi has written an intensely entertaining story
Weekendavisen (Sweden)
The pleasure of To Cook a Bear is twofold: On the one hand, one experiences an almost criminal thrill of voyeurism as Jussi and the Pastor investigate the mysterious assaults. On the other hand, one is transported into a strange time and fascinating world that is both beautiful and brutal. The descriptions of the landscape and the changing of the seasons instil an urgent desire to crank up the time machine . . . that is how it feels when you finish To Cook a Bear: as if the world just got a little bit bigger
Politiken (Denmark)
Niemi's writing - that of a narrator and a poet, a dreamer and a storyteller - brushes the highest peaks of the most delicate lyricism, rising strongly out of the abyss of the darkest mystery
Alessandra Iadicicco, Corriere della Sera (Italy)
Niemi plots a composite story where the philosophical novel, the crime novel, the historical novel and the coming-of-age story coexist, complementing one another instead of getting in each other's way
Alessia Gazzola, La Stampa (Italy)
A masterpiece of narrative
La Vanguardia (Spain)
Niemi's thriller has such a suggestive atmosphere -stifling in its sweating puritanism, yet somehow lyrical, with an incredibly well conceived plot" laura ricci, Il Sole 24 Ore
Laura Ricci, Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy)
A riveting, psychologically astute mystery . . . an example of both superb genre fiction and character-driven literary fiction. It is not to be missed.
Michael Cart, Booklist
An original and gripping crime story
Antonia Senior, The Times
An invented tale of murder, superstition and bigotry . . . Niemi succeeds in constructing a story that works as a murder mystery and as a compelling study of a dangerously inward-looking community.
Nick Rennison, Sunday Times
So much to relish here . . . the plot is grippling, there's a beautifully handled thread on reading and writing, and the writing is just lovely!
Diane Setterfield
"The year's most memorable narrator . . . An unusual and intriguing crime story.
Sunday Times Books of the Year