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18th Century thriller set mainly in Stockholm

19th January 2022

1794 The City Between the Bridges by Niklas Natt och Dag, 18th Century thriller set mainly in Stockholm.

Translated by Ebba Segerberg18th Century thriller set mainly in Stockholm

Niklas Natt och Dag, the author, is a member of the oldest surviving noble family in Sweden. His ancestors were responsible for the murder of the rebel Engelbrekt in 1436, commanded the army that lost Stockholm to the Danes in 1520, and were forced into exile after having demanded the abdication of Charles XIV in 1810. His surname, Natt och Dag, translates as Night and Day. The origin of this slightly unusual name is the family crest, a shield split horizontally in gold and blue.

1794 The City Between the Bridges is Swedish Noir set at the end of the 18th century. And it works really well. The book is the second in a trilogy (the third is yet to be written) but can easily be read as a stand-alone. It paints vivid pictures from the horrors of the slave island of Saint Barthélemy in the Caribbean to the less desirable areas of Stockholm. Pubs, brothels, and sordid street life are ever present. Eric Three Roses, the younger son of a landowner with an estate a couple of days journey from Stockholm is sent away to Saint Barthélemy to ‘make a man of him’ and give him the chance to get over his ‘inappropriate’ love for the daughter of one of the tenant farmers on the estate. He soon discovers the dark secrets of Saint Barthélemy as a major slave trading post. He is disgusted.

With help he returns months later to Sweden and, with his father and elder brother both dead, marries the love of his life. The man who has helped him return becomes Eric’s guardian and organises the wedding – with a strange collection of guests. On his wedding night a terrible drama occurs. His wife dies and Eric (who has experienced a vicious temper on occasion) is accused of her murder. He is transported straightaway to a mental hospital Stockholm where he is incarcerated and subject to barbaric treatments. But the mother of his newly dead wife does not believe that Eric could have been responsible. She heads for Stockholm and finds an out of favour one armed Watchman and his troubled associate to help her track down what really happened.  This they eventually do, but are heavily restrained and hindered in their efforts…

1794 The City Between the Bridges is a good, exciting, well worked story with characters with whom we can emphathise. But, for me, the best parts are the descriptions of Saint Barthélemy and 18th Century Stockholm. The squalor and brutality of both are brought vividly to life. Much of the book is not for the faint-hearted.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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