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  • MacLehose Press
  • MacLehose Press
  • MacLehose Press
  • MacLehose Press
  • Maclehose Press

To Cook a Bear

Mikael Niemi

9 Reviews

Rated 0

Fiction in translation

A riveting historical murder mystery set in Sweden's far north - to delight fans of The Name of the Rose

"So much to relish here . . . the plot is gripping, there's a beautifully handled thread on reading and writing, and the writing is just lovely!" DIANE SETTERFIELD, author of Once Upon A River
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"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 L stadius 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 L stadius has rescued from destitution and abuse, becomes the preacher's faithful disciple on long botanical treks to explore the flora and fauna. L stadius 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, L stadius 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

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Praise for To Cook a Bear

  • An original and gripping crime story - The 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!

  • 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. - Sunday Times

  • A riveting, psychologically astute mystery . . . an example of both superb genre fiction and character-driven literary fiction. It is not to be missed. - Booklist

  • 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

  • "The year's most memorable narrator . . . An unusual and intriguing crime story.

  • - Sunday Times Books of the Year

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Mikael Niemi

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.

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