Review of The Night Raven

The Night Raven The Night Raven [Moonwind Mysteries]
by Johan Rundberg; trans. from Swedish by A. A. Prime
Intermediate, Middle School    Amazon Crossing Kids    192 pp.
11/23    9781662509582    $17.99
Paper ed.  9781662509599    $9.99

This English translation of Rundberg’s lively historical mystery, set in 1880 and winner of several prestigious prizes in its native Sweden, is something to celebrate. Twelve-year-old Mika has lived all her life in Stockholm’s public orphanage; she’s its child-minder and maid-of-all-work as well as a server in a local pub. She is exceptionally spirited in her humor, kindness, courage, and perceptiveness, and when her astute observations attract the attention of police detective Valdemar Hoff, he enlists her help in a murder investigation. Could a copycat murderer be imitating a man who was recently executed, the serial killer known as the “Night Raven”? This is a captivating murder mystery, and more. Mika’s awareness of her ­disposability—“I’m an orphanage kid…and a girl besides…I have to pay attention to detail all the time because my life depends on it”—is only one of the ways Rundberg sheds light on the most vulnerable. At the same time, his prose is quick, earthy, and comic: Hoff’s hands are “as big as toilet lids”; he smells like “an old horse blanket”; and the rhapsody of the coming spring is noted by “the smell of thawing latrines.” Joyous, funny, suspenseful, and serious—an unusual and winning combination for middle-grade readers. Let’s hope its three sequels appear in Prime’s English translation too.

From the September/October 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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