To Cook A Bear by Mikael Niemi
It is 1852, and in Sweden's far north, deep in the Arctic Circle, charismatic preacher and Revivalist Lars Levi Laestadius 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 Laestadius has rescued from destitution and abuse, becomes the preacher's faithful disciple on long botanical treks to explore the flora and fauna.
Laestadius 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, Laestadius 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.