A riveting historical murder mystery set in Sweden's far north - to delight fans of THE NAME OF THE ROSE
TO COOK A BEAR is the fantastic story of revivalist preacher Lars Levi Laestadius and the young Sami boy he saves from a ditch and cares for. It is the summer of 1852 in the Kengis village of Sweden's far north, and Jussi - as the boy is called - has fled from a cruel home plagued by abuse, starvation, and alcoholism.
Jussi becomes the preacher's faithful disciple. Laestadius is an avid botanist, and with Jussi in tow he sets out on long botanical treks to teach him all about plants and nature; but also how to read, write and not least to love and fear God. For it is revivalist times, and thanks to Laestadius, impassioned faith spreads like wildfire among the locals. While the preacher's powerful Sunday sermons grant salvation to farmers and workers, they gain him enemies among local rulers, who see profits dwindle as people choose revival over alcohol.
One day a maid goes missing in the deep forest, and soon thereafter another disappears. One of them is found dead, the other badly wounded, and the locals suspect a predatory bear is at large. The constable is quick to offer a reward for capturing the bear, but the preacher sees other traces that point to a far worse killer on the loose. Along with Jussi, the preacher reinvents himself as something of a forensic expert, unaware of the evil that is closing in on him.
A gripping and vivid read, To Cook a Bear manages to both entertain and to burrow deep down into life's great philosophical questions. Reminiscent of Victor Hugo's Les miserables and Marilynne Robinson's Lila, TO COOK A BEAR goes straight to the heart.
Translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner
This book is a masterpiece . . . The legendary L stadius 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
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.
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
Mikael Niemi was born in 1959 and grew up in Pajala in the northernmost part of Sweden, near the Finnish border, where he still lives. Before the publication of To Cook A Bear, his breakthrough novel was Popular Music From Vittula (2000), selling more than one million copies. It won the Swedish August Prize and has been translated into more than thirty languages. To Cook A Bear has now been sold for translation to fifteen territories.