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“The Historians blends a fascinating historical intrigue with the quick pace and excitement of a thriller.”  — Ellen Keith, author of The Dutch Wife The Secret History meets The Alice Network in this riveting tale of murder and conspiracy in Sweden during WWII by critically acclaimed author Cecilia Eckbäck. It is 1943 and Sweden’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. Lau “The Historians blends a fascinating historical intrigue with the quick pace and excitement of a thriller.”  — Ellen Keith, author of The Dutch Wife The Secret History meets The Alice Network in this riveting tale of murder and conspiracy in Sweden during WWII by critically acclaimed author Cecilia Eckbäck. It is 1943 and Sweden’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. Laura Dahlgren, the bright, young right-hand of the chief negotiator to Germany, is privy to these tensions, even as she tries to keep her head down in the mounting fray. However, when Laura’s best friend from university, Britta, is discovered murdered in cold blood, Laura is determined to find the killer. Prior to her death, Britta sent a report on the racial profiling in Scandinavia to the secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jens Regnell. In the middle of negotiating a delicate alliance with Hitler and the Nazis, Jens doesn’t understand why he’s received the report. When the pursuit of Britta’s murderer leads Laura to his door, the two join forces to get at the truth. But as Jens and Laura attempt to untangle the mysterious circumstance surrounding Britta’s death, they only become more mired in a web of lies and deceit. This trail will lead to a conspiracy that could topple their nation’s identity—a conspiracy some in Sweden will try to keep hidden at any cost.


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“The Historians blends a fascinating historical intrigue with the quick pace and excitement of a thriller.”  — Ellen Keith, author of The Dutch Wife The Secret History meets The Alice Network in this riveting tale of murder and conspiracy in Sweden during WWII by critically acclaimed author Cecilia Eckbäck. It is 1943 and Sweden’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. Lau “The Historians blends a fascinating historical intrigue with the quick pace and excitement of a thriller.”  — Ellen Keith, author of The Dutch Wife The Secret History meets The Alice Network in this riveting tale of murder and conspiracy in Sweden during WWII by critically acclaimed author Cecilia Eckbäck. It is 1943 and Sweden’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. Laura Dahlgren, the bright, young right-hand of the chief negotiator to Germany, is privy to these tensions, even as she tries to keep her head down in the mounting fray. However, when Laura’s best friend from university, Britta, is discovered murdered in cold blood, Laura is determined to find the killer. Prior to her death, Britta sent a report on the racial profiling in Scandinavia to the secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jens Regnell. In the middle of negotiating a delicate alliance with Hitler and the Nazis, Jens doesn’t understand why he’s received the report. When the pursuit of Britta’s murderer leads Laura to his door, the two join forces to get at the truth. But as Jens and Laura attempt to untangle the mysterious circumstance surrounding Britta’s death, they only become more mired in a web of lies and deceit. This trail will lead to a conspiracy that could topple their nation’s identity—a conspiracy some in Sweden will try to keep hidden at any cost.

30 review for The Historians

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Quick thoughts: Set in Sweden during WWII, The Historians is a unique and exciting two parts historical fiction, one part mystery, thriller. I’m not sure I’ve read a book set in Sweden before and definitely not during the WWII. I enjoyed learning about Sweden, especially its position during the war. There’s a conspiracy and tons of secrets, along with a few twists and a strong atmosphere. I received a gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and i Quick thoughts: Set in Sweden during WWII, The Historians is a unique and exciting two parts historical fiction, one part mystery, thriller. I’m not sure I’ve read a book set in Sweden before and definitely not during the WWII. I enjoyed learning about Sweden, especially its position during the war. There’s a conspiracy and tons of secrets, along with a few twists and a strong atmosphere. I received a gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lexi

    With a DNF, there is always a build up for me. You start out by wishing the story would move faster- and at this point, everything slows down for you. So you start skimming, waiting for the interesting stuff....but it never comes, so you keep skimming, and then realize you are waisting your time. I am rating this 3 years because this is meant for someone, but not me. I did give it the college try and made it 200 pages, a little under half the book. The Historians is fine, but it is VERY slow. Th With a DNF, there is always a build up for me. You start out by wishing the story would move faster- and at this point, everything slows down for you. So you start skimming, waiting for the interesting stuff....but it never comes, so you keep skimming, and then realize you are waisting your time. I am rating this 3 years because this is meant for someone, but not me. I did give it the college try and made it 200 pages, a little under half the book. The Historians is fine, but it is VERY slow. The author of the book is clearly very passionate about Swedish history so theres a huge push in it to really comb the fine details of that- as well as talk a lot about Swedish government agencies and such. Basically, this is a history nerds book. The characters are not the strong suit here- interesting as they are on the surface. Theres good bones, but development of the characters and mystery were a snail's pace. The Historians is meant to provide an atmospheric world war 2 experience- and it does this very well. Patience is a virtue and I am not patient.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Shindler

    Cecilia Ekback has written a historical mystery thriller with an unusual perspective and setting.It takes place in Sweden in 1943 and explores the politics of that purportedly neutral country and the tensions and fears within the Baltic and Scandinavian region. At the outset of the story, a thirteen year old Sami girl goes missing while setting rabbit traps on a mountain that houses an iron mine. A history graduate student, the daughter of the mine foreman, is brutally murdered in Stockholm for n Cecilia Ekback has written a historical mystery thriller with an unusual perspective and setting.It takes place in Sweden in 1943 and explores the politics of that purportedly neutral country and the tensions and fears within the Baltic and Scandinavian region. At the outset of the story, a thirteen year old Sami girl goes missing while setting rabbit traps on a mountain that houses an iron mine. A history graduate student, the daughter of the mine foreman, is brutally murdered in Stockholm for no discernible reason. Also, an assistant to a high ranking government minister gets hints of secret conversations at the highest level that are being covered up. These three storylines provide the basis for a twisting and riveting account of life and intrigue in a region not often portrayed in wartime fiction.The story unfolds by following three main characters. The first is Laura, who is one of five history students, including the deceased girl, who had formed a close and elite circle while in university. After graduation, they have drifted apart but gradually are drawn together at Laura’s instigation to find out what happened to their friend. The second is the ministerial assistant, Jens, whose curiosity exposes him to political pushback.The third “character” is the mining community and the Sami people inhabiting the area. Within this framework swirls a host of other characters.Some are fictional and some are historical. They all combine to present a portrait of the geopolitical anxieties experienced in the Baltic region, the lurking undercurrent of racial paranoia and the ambivalent attitude towards Germany and the Reich. The plot develops slowly while setting up the narrative strands. During the early portions of the book, there is a host of fascinating detail about the history of Sweden and the region. There is a cast of characters listed at the start of the book which proved useful early on to familiarize me with the many people introduced in the book. Once these pieces are firmly in place, the plot moves quickly with loads of tension.This book both educates and entertains. It appears that the author plans a sequel, as a number of storylines can still be developed.I will be waiting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Guylou (Two Dogs and a Book)

    📚 Hello Book Friends! THE HISTORIANS by Cecilia Ekbäck was a revelation and taught me so much about the position of Sweden during WWII. The story is intriguing, and the author keeps you on your toes from start to end. A young woman is discovered tortured and murdered, and this is the start of an investigation to find out why. Three people not related, work together to investigate, and will stumble on a conspiracy that could overthrow the Swedish government and change Sweden forever. They will en 📚 Hello Book Friends! THE HISTORIANS by Cecilia Ekbäck was a revelation and taught me so much about the position of Sweden during WWII. The story is intriguing, and the author keeps you on your toes from start to end. A young woman is discovered tortured and murdered, and this is the start of an investigation to find out why. Three people not related, work together to investigate, and will stumble on a conspiracy that could overthrow the Swedish government and change Sweden forever. They will encounter many obstacles, and many will try to stop them from uncovering the conspiracy. Will they be able to succeed? Cecilia Ekbäck delivers a strong historical novel with all the elements of a great investigative novel. This is a must-read for any WWII story lovers. #bookstadog #poodles #poodlestagram #poodlesofinstagram #furbabies #dogsofinstagram #bookstagram #dogsandbooks #bookishlife #bookishlove #bookstagrammer #books #booklover #bookish #bookaholic #reading #readersofinstagram #instaread #ilovebooks #bookishcanadians #canadianbookstagram #bookreviewer #bookcommunity #bibliophile #bookphotography #thehistorians #ceciliaeckback #bookreview

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ken Fredette

    I can't praise Cecilia Ekbäck enough for her story. You have to read her author's note and historical background to get where she's coming from after you read the story. You start out in 1943 with Laura, then Jens, and then Blackåsen Mountain in that order. We start out with Laura working for Jacob Wallenberg, who was Sweden's chief negotiator with Germany. Then we learn of her best friend being killed. We find in her previous life Britta, Laura, Erik, Matti, and Karl-Henrik were all in as Histo I can't praise Cecilia Ekbäck enough for her story. You have to read her author's note and historical background to get where she's coming from after you read the story. You start out in 1943 with Laura, then Jens, and then Blackåsen Mountain in that order. We start out with Laura working for Jacob Wallenberg, who was Sweden's chief negotiator with Germany. Then we learn of her best friend being killed. We find in her previous life Britta, Laura, Erik, Matti, and Karl-Henrik were all in as History majors with Professor Lindahl in a group that met in Laura's rooms. Jens was the secretary to Christian Günther, who was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. And Jens had a friend who was the archivist, Daniel Jonsson, who was later a suicide. At Blackäsen Mountain Taneli's older sister went missing over hundred days before, they were both Sami. These are the three stories that lead to the same conclusion and the reason for this story. Cecilia has us on pins and needles throughout the book and we have many killings to offer. I've given you what the players there are now you need to read the story to find out what happens. Like me you'll find it a book you can't forget.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tamara

    I don't know what exactly I was expecting from The Historians, but it was kind of too noirish for me. I love it when a novel has a wonderfully atmospheric feel to it, and The Historians has that in spades. I also like reading books based on Scandanavian countries, I am very interested in the different cultures and yes, I am NOT a huge fan of the deluge of books during WWII but when it's in a Scandinavian country I also take exception to it. Okay, I did like it but I didn't love it. There was som I don't know what exactly I was expecting from The Historians, but it was kind of too noirish for me. I love it when a novel has a wonderfully atmospheric feel to it, and The Historians has that in spades. I also like reading books based on Scandanavian countries, I am very interested in the different cultures and yes, I am NOT a huge fan of the deluge of books during WWII but when it's in a Scandinavian country I also take exception to it. Okay, I did like it but I didn't love it. There was something that to me was missing, and what that was I am not sure about that but I didn't or wasn't able to connect to any of the characters, except maybe to Jens Regnell, who is drawn into the mystery of Britta Hallberg's murder by receiving her Ph.D. on Scandanavian supremacy without understanding why. It did keep me coming back for more and but I wanted more depth to the characters. The concept was good but to me, it was missing something.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I'll be the first to admit that I've read a substantial amount of World War II historical fiction in my day. However, The Historians takes on a perspective I have never before experienced as a reader - from the eyes of politically neutral Sweden. Told from three different perspectives, this novel centers around a series of disappearances and murders that ultimately gives rise to a dark secret the country has been hiding. With tensions from the Second World War raging around them and Nazis casual I'll be the first to admit that I've read a substantial amount of World War II historical fiction in my day. However, The Historians takes on a perspective I have never before experienced as a reader - from the eyes of politically neutral Sweden. Told from three different perspectives, this novel centers around a series of disappearances and murders that ultimately gives rise to a dark secret the country has been hiding. With tensions from the Second World War raging around them and Nazis casually roaming the streets and riding the rails, two strangers join forces in an attempt to dismantle a disturbing truth buried in the mountains of Sweden. This novel is a perfect addition to the library of fans of The Alice Network, City of Thieves, and Between Shades of Gray.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachelle

    I'm a little wary of WWII stories, since so many seem to be repeating the same story. The Historians, though, is unlike any other WWII story I've read in the best possible way. The Historians takes place in Sweden, following several different characters who are all connected in one way or another to a history student who was found tortured and murdered. While at first it's unclear how the characters are related to each other, eventually, everything ties together and I was racing to see what would I'm a little wary of WWII stories, since so many seem to be repeating the same story. The Historians, though, is unlike any other WWII story I've read in the best possible way. The Historians takes place in Sweden, following several different characters who are all connected in one way or another to a history student who was found tortured and murdered. While at first it's unclear how the characters are related to each other, eventually, everything ties together and I was racing to see what would happen next. This is really a book about a conspiracy, with a very noir feel. Unlike most novels set during this time, there's no fighting and no concentration camps. Instead, Sweden is trying to remain neutral and balance the needs of its citizens with the demands of the outside world. This book does not tie up every loose end, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I was also a little disappointed to realize that the book is based on more of an idea that existed than on actual events that happened (just because I expect the broad strokes in historical fiction to be true, not because I wanted any of these things to have really happened). 4.5. stars, rounded up. Thank you to Harper Perennial for a copy of this book!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cori

    A great historical fiction book that felt like a thriller (in a great way). After a college student is killed for sending her thesis to a secretary of the Minister of Foreign affairs in Sweden, I didn't know who to trust. I had my suspicions with a few other characters and I didn't predict how the story unfolded and yet I enjoyed the ride it took me on. I also liked the dual stories of what was happening in Stockholm and what was tragically happening in Blackensen Mountain as well. Just as the mo A great historical fiction book that felt like a thriller (in a great way). After a college student is killed for sending her thesis to a secretary of the Minister of Foreign affairs in Sweden, I didn't know who to trust. I had my suspicions with a few other characters and I didn't predict how the story unfolded and yet I enjoyed the ride it took me on. I also liked the dual stories of what was happening in Stockholm and what was tragically happening in Blackensen Mountain as well. Just as the momentum in one timeline built up we jumped to another place to build more. Reading about Sweden's neutrality in WWII was new to me and I liked the different location of this book. I also liked learning about a smaller indigenous population (the Sami people) that I hadn't read about before in a Historical Fiction book. Thank you to HaperPerennial for a copy of this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    kaylasbookishlife

    There comes a time in every readers journey where you need to realize that your current read is just not the story for you. I’ve been trying to read this one for months. I was super excited about it. It takes place in Sweden during WWII, something I had never read before. However I was hit with a lot of confusion right from the start. There were a few too many characters and not enough background for me to feel attached to any of them. I am unfamiliar with Swedish culture and their Indigenous peo There comes a time in every readers journey where you need to realize that your current read is just not the story for you. I’ve been trying to read this one for months. I was super excited about it. It takes place in Sweden during WWII, something I had never read before. However I was hit with a lot of confusion right from the start. There were a few too many characters and not enough background for me to feel attached to any of them. I am unfamiliar with Swedish culture and their Indigenous peoples so I would have liked a note at the beginning with a brief explanation of who the Sami peoples were. Time to put this one down. I do want to thank @harpercollinsca for sending this book to me. Perhaps when I read more books about this topic and time I can return to this one. It was just a little too dense for me. 💛 #gifted

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Watson

    It’s crazy to think of the things that people do to others simply because they think they’re superior. The Historians tells of such events. I liked the way the author told the story from different perspectives. I had an idea of who one of “the bad guys” was from early on, but was surprised by the revealing of another. The reason for the 14A rating is the multiple uses of the f-word, along with other mild profanity, along with some graphic violence.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shari Suarez

    There is a lot of WWII fiction out there but I haven't read one that focuses on Sweden during the war. Sweden was officially neutral but sold iron to Germany and provided military intelligence to the Allies. There are a lot of characters in this book and multiple storylines. That being said, it was hard to put it down. There were several different twists to the story that I just didn't see coming. This is a worthy entry to the world of WWII fiction. There is a lot of WWII fiction out there but I haven't read one that focuses on Sweden during the war. Sweden was officially neutral but sold iron to Germany and provided military intelligence to the Allies. There are a lot of characters in this book and multiple storylines. That being said, it was hard to put it down. There were several different twists to the story that I just didn't see coming. This is a worthy entry to the world of WWII fiction.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    3.5 stars

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I enjoyed learning about a different aspect of World War 2 in the Nordic countries that I was ignorant previously. I also really enjoyed the complex characters in this story and it was thoroughly engaging.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Beata

    A must read. Fast paced. Brilliantly twisting plot. Important historic account of Scandinavian horrors.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Donald L Davis

    Disappointing Disjointed plot, pacing that drags on. filler after filler laden page. Uninteresting characters and blah ending. Maybe her other wotks are more interesting.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    What most of us in the English-speaking world know about Scandinavia’s role in World War II is largely limited to tales of the Nazi invasions of Norway and Denmark. Less well remembered are the events that unfolded in neutral Sweden, the region’s most populous country. And award-winning Swedish author Cecilia Ekbäck uses those events and invents some of her own in a new WWII thriller, The Historians. The book is a complex and challenging tale that leaps from one surprise to the next. The result What most of us in the English-speaking world know about Scandinavia’s role in World War II is largely limited to tales of the Nazi invasions of Norway and Denmark. Less well remembered are the events that unfolded in neutral Sweden, the region’s most populous country. And award-winning Swedish author Cecilia Ekbäck uses those events and invents some of her own in a new WWII thriller, The Historians. The book is a complex and challenging tale that leaps from one surprise to the next. The result is spellbinding. A complex WWII thriller that unfolds in three parallel directions 1943. Sweden. In a Sami village in the country’s far north, a region called Lappland, a thirteen-year-old girl goes missing while setting traps for rabbits near an iron mine. She is far from the first of her tribe to vanish on the mountain. Meanwhile, the daughter of the foreman at that mine, a university graduate student in history, is brutally tortured and murdered in the distant south. Her best friend, now employed in a trusted government post, sets out to learn who killed her. And the personal secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs uncovers evidence indicating that his boss is involved in secret discussions he is desperate to cover up. These are the three tracks along which this exceedingly clever and compelling WWII thriller winds its way to a conclusion. The “historians” A large cast of characters figures in this tale, but the eponymous “historians” of the title are at the center of much of the action. They are five young people—two Swedes, a Norwegian, a Dane, and a Finn—who studied the subject at Uppsala University in the class of 1940. The five became close as a group when a revered professor invited them to join him periodically at nachspiele, light dinners held after the meetings of the Historical Society. ** Britta Hallberg is beautiful, vivacious, and disorganized—a “party girl” whose relationships outside the group of five rarely outlasted a single night. In 1943, as a history graduate student still at Uppsala, she is tortured and shot to death, execution-style. Britta’s murder sets off the action that involves all four of her former friends. ** Laura Dahlgren‘s father is the wealthy and powerful governor of the Bank of Sweden. She works closely with Jacob Wallenberg in the Swedish office negotiating a trade agreement with Nazi Germany (and secretly helping Jews escape the Nazis). Britta was Laura’s best friend, although they have seen very little of each other since Laura left Uppsala for Stockholm. ** Erik Anker, a Dane, always seemed to suffer from an unrequited love for Britta. After the German invasion of his country, he returned home to join the resistance. ** Karl-Henrik Rogstad, who is Norwegian, made his way back to Norway after his graduation to enlist in the resistance. ** Matti Karppinen works for the Finnish Ministry of Information and is deeply involved in his nation’s perilous balancing act between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which has twice tried to seize control of the country. How the plot unfolds Laura Dahlgren is determined to find out who murdered her best friend, and what could possibly explain the ferocity of her killer. Jens Regnell wonders why his boss, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, refuses to acknowledge the telephone call he held with his counterparts in Denmark and Norway, and he won’t rest until he learns why. And at the iron mine far away in Lappland, the new director is angry that his superiors in Stockholm won’t allow him to investigate the reasons why a section of the mine is closed to him. Like Laura and Jens, Rolf Sandler is motivated to ask questions even after he’s been warned off. All three will expose themselves to great danger as they pursue the truth along lines that eventually will merge. This is no conventional serial killer story. It’s a WWII thriller that draws on the history of the war and the sad reality in Sweden at a perilous time in its evolution as a modern nation. Sweden’s precarious role in World War II Not always a rich or stable nation Today, Sweden’s ten million people enjoy one of the stablest and wealthiest economies on the planet. Yet a century ago, the country was among Europe’s poorest nations. (Just half a century earlier the country suffered through a devastating famine.) And the Swedish people were still decidedly poor in the wake of the Great Depression as World War II got underway. Then, as now, Sweden depended heavily on international trade, and its biggest trading partner outside Scandinavia was nearby Germany. The Swedes exchanged the rich iron ore they mined in abundance for German coal to heat their homes and fuel their factories. The plot in this WWII thriller revolves around that dependency. A neutral country in name more than fact Officially, Sweden was neutral in the war and managed to stay that way throughout. However, Adolf Hitler was widely admired. Large numbers of Swedes favored closer relations with Nazi Germany. And the American racial ideology that later came to be most closely associated with the Nazis and the Holocaust found a ready audience among the Swedish people. Dreaming of a Scandinavian Reich Many Swedes had long dreamed of their own united Scandinavian Reich under one strong leader. The upshot was that the Swedish government under the Social Democrats leaned toward the Nazis, allowing a total of two million German troops to transit through the land en route to occupied Norway during 1940-43. Pro-Nazi attitudes were especially strong in the military, the police, and the intelligence services. And rumors constantly swirled of conspiracies afoot to overthrow the government and enter the war in support of the Nazis. The Sami people Today an estimated 80,000 Sami inhabit the vast territory of Lappland. It sprawls across the northernmost reaches of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and extreme northwest Russia and is nearly as large as the state of California. Some 50,000 Sami live in Norway, 20,000 in Sweden. They speak ten languages that are distantly related to Finnish and Hungarian. The Sami are usually identified as reindeer herders, their traditional occupation, but only some ten percent of Sami in Sweden remain as herders today. How closely does the novel reflect the historical record? Ekbäck has drawn three of the characters who play key roles in her story straight from the pages of history. ** Christian Günther (1886-66) served as Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs throughout World War II. As the author reveals in her notes at the novel’s conclusion, Günther engineered the “Swedish-German rapprochement” in 1940-41 but, one year later, “offered Jews a refuge from the Holocaust.” ** Karl Schnurre (1898-1990) “was a Nazi diplomat central to Sweden’s relationship with Germany; he was sometimes described as ‘Hitler’s special representative.'” ** Jacob Wallenberg (1892-1980) managed trade negotiations with Germany, as the novel depicts. His better-known relative, Raoul Wallenberg (1912-47), doubtless a cousin, lost his life following the war in the Soviet Gulag after saving tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from certain death in the Holocaust. The Wallenbergs were (and are) one of Sweden’s richest and most prominent families. A fourth figure Ekbäck names Professor Lindahl, who is even more pivotal in the plot, somewhat resembles Uppsala University history professor Harald Hjärne. The university is, in fact, Scandinavia’s oldest—it was founded in 1477—and is often ranked among the world’s top 100 universities. It’s known for its emphasis on the sciences. The fictional Blackåsen Mine, site of much of the action in the novel, represents the Kiruna Mine, about which Ekbäck wrote in two previous books. It’s the world’s largest iron mine and during World War II “the ore from Kiruna went largely to Germany.” But Uppsala’s State Institute for Racial Biology, which is central to the story, did exist under that name, although its activities were very different from those depicted in Ekbäck’s imagination. Today, it is known as the State Institute for Human Genetics and is a department of Uppsala University. About the author Cecilia Eckbäck’s debut novel was Wolf Winter, which won the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown and the High Plains Book Award. Her second novel, The Midnight Sun, was published to wide acclaim. Originally from a small town in Lappland in northern Sweden, Ekbäck now lives in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, with her husband and twin daughters. She was born in 1971.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Doreen

    My husband and I had planned a trip to Scandinavia for the fall of 2020, a trip that never happened because of Covid-19, so the next best thing is reading a book set there. Having enjoyed Cecilia Ekbäck’s previous novels (Wolf Winter and The Midnight Sun), I looked forward to this one. The Historians is not the best of the three, but it is an entertaining read. The novel is set in Sweden in 1943 when the country’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. The story is narrated from three perspecti My husband and I had planned a trip to Scandinavia for the fall of 2020, a trip that never happened because of Covid-19, so the next best thing is reading a book set there. Having enjoyed Cecilia Ekbäck’s previous novels (Wolf Winter and The Midnight Sun), I looked forward to this one. The Historians is not the best of the three, but it is an entertaining read. The novel is set in Sweden in 1943 when the country’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. The story is narrated from three perspectives. Laura, a young civil servant assisting a team overseeing trade negotiations with Nazi Germany, discovers the body of Britta, her best friend from university. Britta had been tortured before being murdered. Laura sets out to find Britta’s killer. Meanwhile, Jens, the secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, receives Britta’s PhD thesis but he dismisses it since there is no explanatory letter. He is pre-occupied with concerns that his boss is secretly negotiating with the German Reich. At the same time, in Lapland in northernmost Sweden, Taneli, a young Sami boy, is searching for his sister, one of several Sami who have mysteriously disappeared. These three narratives gradually converge with the discovery of secrets which threaten the fabric of the entire country. My knowledge about Scandinavia during World War II was scant so the preface at the beginning (“The Nordic Countries during World War II”) was very useful. It provides a context for the events in the novel. At the end of the book, the Author’s Note and Historical Background gives more information and explains which events are based on historical events and which characters are based on real individuals. It is obvious that the author did considerable research. At the beginning, there is also an extensive list of characters. The length of that list had me concerned but I found that it was not especially difficult to keep track of who is who. The novel starts slowly but tension does gradually build. The characters face increasing danger, especially after more deaths occur and more people disappear. More than one person is keeping secrets and telling lies so there are many suspects. Distrust seeps into relationships as it becomes difficult to determine who can be trusted. Red herrings abound. Just as one story reaches a crucial stage, the focus changes to another plot line so there are a number of cliffhangers. I did guess the identity of one of the villains but was surprised at the identity of another one. I enjoyed learning more about Sami culture. The racial bias against them has parallels to Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous peoples: “authorities suppressed the Sami culture, dismissing it as backward. . . . the Sami were deemed racially ‘less’ than the rest of the population and not capable of managing their own destiny. . . . They were not allowed to hunt and fish where their ancestors had always lived.” The one thing that is missing is the development of relationships, especially parent-child relationships. One father calls his son “merciless” and another dismisses his daughter as “a tart”? Another father is disgusted by his daughter’s behaviour? There are backstories there that need to be developed; without them, actions are not totally credible and convincing. Blackåsen Mountain, a brooding and menacing presence, appears in all of Ekbäck’s novels; each of the books visits the mountain in a different time period (Wolf Winter: 1717; The Midnight Sun: 1856; and The Historians: 1943). Though Blackåsen Mountain is not a real place, it is apparently based on places from Ekbäck’s childhood. Perhaps I will eventually be able to visit northern Sweden; in the meantime, The Historians provided a vicarious visit which I really enjoyed. Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    4.5 stars and I just have to round it up. It's not perfect, but it's close to perfect. As soon as I saw it was totally embedded in the year 1943 I put reading it off. WWII has just bilge in droves. Fiction beyond horrific all the way to slanted and perverse sentimentality. Hardly readable let alone instructive. Well, this is the opposite. It is not a book for everyone who likes fiction or historical fiction at all, IMHO. You need to be a student of particulars that are not center stage or much tau 4.5 stars and I just have to round it up. It's not perfect, but it's close to perfect. As soon as I saw it was totally embedded in the year 1943 I put reading it off. WWII has just bilge in droves. Fiction beyond horrific all the way to slanted and perverse sentimentality. Hardly readable let alone instructive. Well, this is the opposite. It is not a book for everyone who likes fiction or historical fiction at all, IMHO. You need to be a student of particulars that are not center stage or much taught in other than the Scandinavian realms. That's just my opinion, but looking at the reviews I believe it is fairly accurate. I myself had to look up 3 or 5 specifics about dates etc. I knew Finland had fought with Germany and against the Soviet Union for diverse reasons, most of them having to do with their very country's survival. I knew that the others had had different category German "occupation" or adversity with neutrality states during most of the war. I don't want to go long. This is super deep. Immense characterizations for all, but especially for the 5 that were in the special category student group. It's basically also the story of the Sami within historical placements during these times. Plus somewhat before and after. They used to be called Laplanders. It's not central core who-dun-it. It's amazing because it has 2 or 3 embedded themes beyond the cabals and persecuted of the circuitous plots. People die. Are some spies? Where can group think lead? And what happens when some of the group refuse to be woke or enlightened? It's a book that took me 3 tries in 3 different months to get into. Once in, it sure was worth it. This is not an easy read. It is quite different than Wolf Winter. But she can write and she sure knows her Swedish world. Before, during, after. It does have its faults in length and congruence issues possibly too. Every situation posited is over the complex bridge all the way to essential sustaining territory too. Like the mining products needed by all but especially by Germany. And the trade bottom lines so that most people can eat. Strongly recommend if you truly like to dig into history's trails. Both in the actual and in the perhaps. I almost gave it 4 stars because I think the ending was a bit tight. Saying more would be spoilers. But in record and in life, I don't believe those types of ends are always tied so evenly or completely. Can't wait until she has another book out. Wonder where she will go next!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 3.5 stars As a historian, I'm a sucker for novels where the profession is integral to the plot. I mean, who wouldn't want to see their profession as a potential path to heroism and adventure? (Remember history teacher Noah Wylie in "Falling Skies"?) The trap was set. I was lured to "The Historians" by Cecelia Ekbäck (released January 12, 2021). However, Ekbäck is not herself a historian. So, other than being set in 1940s Sweden, the story is light on history, historical methods, or discipline speci 3.5 stars As a historian, I'm a sucker for novels where the profession is integral to the plot. I mean, who wouldn't want to see their profession as a potential path to heroism and adventure? (Remember history teacher Noah Wylie in "Falling Skies"?) The trap was set. I was lured to "The Historians" by Cecelia Ekbäck (released January 12, 2021). However, Ekbäck is not herself a historian. So, other than being set in 1940s Sweden, the story is light on history, historical methods, or discipline specific considerations. The premise is that, several years before World War II, a group of undergraduate history students at the University of Uppsala (Sweden) so impressed their eugenically-minded professor with their project on Nordic superiority that it became the catalyst for a covert, murderous, experimental operation that targeted the indigenous Sámi people of northern Sweden. Having taught university history courses for 15 years, I could not buy into this premise. That aside, what about the story? At its heart, this is a murder mystery. And the list of murders grow as the protagonists get closer to solving one girl's murder and shutting down the experiment. In this regard, the book is well done. But...the female protagonist is incredibly insecure and angsty. So much so that, in the end, several characters express their surprise that she persevered. Only her devotion to -- dare I say, obsession with -- her dead friend drives her on. Frankly, it was a little over the top. I appreciated that the book highlighted a component of World War II history that is often overlooked in fiction. Set in Sweden the reader gets a glimpse of WWII in a country other than France, England, or Italy (as are the common settings for WWII fiction) and learns that Hitler was not alone in his murderous agenda. I wanted to like this book more than I actually did, but I still think it is worth a read. I rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lori Sinsel Harris

    Although "The Historians" is a historical fiction novel, it is also a mystery to be solved. We begin with Laura, assistant to the diplomatic negotiator for Sweden. Just three years ago Laura was a college student with a tight-knit group of friends who she no longer is in contact with since their falling out shortly before school ended. Even though estranged Laura still considers the group her best of friends. When one of the group is found by Laura, murdered, and in such a way that suspicion is Although "The Historians" is a historical fiction novel, it is also a mystery to be solved. We begin with Laura, assistant to the diplomatic negotiator for Sweden. Just three years ago Laura was a college student with a tight-knit group of friends who she no longer is in contact with since their falling out shortly before school ended. Even though estranged Laura still considers the group her best of friends. When one of the group is found by Laura, murdered, and in such a way that suspicion is turned toward her and her group of friends, she can not help but become involved with the investigation. But the more Laura digs, the more she finds herself in danger and doors closing in her face. A young man, Jens, the secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, finds himself drawn into the investigation when he finds a thesis, written by the murdered girl, left mysteriously on his desk. This book raised questions I have never considered about the countries that remained neutral during WWII. Why they were neutral and at what cost did that neutrality come? I found this an interesting novel with a different slant to it than what is usually written about the war. It was gripping in that it presents angles and theories about the war that I have not encountered before. Though the storyline is interesting and different I am sorry to have to say that I found it somewhat of a slow read. I like the different view taken but I found the characters were lacking. I never found that "connection" to any of the characters, and I only had a sense of aloofness on the part of the main character Laura. I would still recommend to historical fiction fans, because the plot is intriguing and it is worth the time to read, I just cannot give 5 stars, therefore I will give 4 and recommend. This book was a personal choice and not an advanced reader copy, this review is simply my opinion of the novel.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ray Palen

    Cecilia Ekback was born in Sweden and now lives with her family in Canmore, Alberta, Canada --- but it is evident from her novel THE HISTORIANS that her heart is still firmly in Sweden. Specifically, she has chosen one of the most stressful times in the history of the world, the midst of World War II, to create a novel that tries to define Sweden’s true identity at a time when the typically neutral nation tried to stay out of world affairs and skirmishes like that one. There is a two-headed prota Cecilia Ekback was born in Sweden and now lives with her family in Canmore, Alberta, Canada --- but it is evident from her novel THE HISTORIANS that her heart is still firmly in Sweden. Specifically, she has chosen one of the most stressful times in the history of the world, the midst of World War II, to create a novel that tries to define Sweden’s true identity at a time when the typically neutral nation tried to stay out of world affairs and skirmishes like that one. There is a two-headed protagonist in this novel who each are coming from different parts of the Swedish government but are destined to come together to solve a mystery that will unearth a conspiracy that will rock the nation to its core --- the likes of which Sweden probably has not seen in modern literature since the works of the late Stieg Larsson. The first is young Laura Dahlgren, not far removed from her days a history student in Uppsala. Now, she is working on a team that is attempting to negotiate iron access with Germany. Her life will be completely upheaved by the unexpected murder of her best friend from College, Britta, and she will not let anything stand in the way of her getting answers about this. Our other hero is Jens Regnell, the personal secretary to the minister of foreign affairs in Stockholm. He is waiting for a report on racial profiling in Scandinavia that was put together by none other than the recently deceased Britta. For reasons unknown to Jens, this report never finds its way to his desk. Britta had tried reaching out to Laura just prior to her murder and now Laura will never forgive herself for missing out on the potentially important message or warning that could have allowed her to intervene and save her friend’s life. There are literally dozens of characters coming in and out of the action within THE HISTORIANS and I was extremely thankful that Cecilia Ekback provided an alphabetical list of characters at the front of the novel which I continued to flip to throughout the story. At the heart of the story is the racial profiling by the infamous Adolf Hitler against the Jewish people. There were thousands of Jews in the Scandinavian countries and the atrocities about the millions of Jews who had suddenly disappeared after going to the rumored concentration camps is something that sickened most members of the Swedish government. The fact that Britta’s report might have done more than just speculate about this makes it that much more necessary that Laura and Jens, who eventually join forces based on a common goal, locate it and see that the results are published and acted on. The problem, of course, is that any conspiracy is going to involve those who sympathize with Hitler and his Nazis and their ideas about exterminating the Jewish race. Will a sharp History student and an honest government official be enough to not only solve Britta’s murder but also reveal the report she was silenced over? Cecilia Ekback believes in them and I am sure readers will as well as THE HISTORIANS is Historical Fiction done right as it places readers in the middle of a point in history and yet is able to create something brand new set against that historical backdrop. Reviewed by Ray Palen for Criminal Element

  23. 5 out of 5

    Charisma D

    Technically, this book gets 3.5 stars from me. While I normally don’t read historical fiction, this was a great book! The ultimate reason for the rating of 3.5 stars is for the following below: - Their are 4 POV in different chapters, which surprisingly went in order everytime which made it easy to follow but within one of the POV it was about 4 different characters we would follow which ultimately made it confusing for me until we got towards the last 100 pages. - Laura praised her friend Britta, Technically, this book gets 3.5 stars from me. While I normally don’t read historical fiction, this was a great book! The ultimate reason for the rating of 3.5 stars is for the following below: - Their are 4 POV in different chapters, which surprisingly went in order everytime which made it easy to follow but within one of the POV it was about 4 different characters we would follow which ultimately made it confusing for me until we got towards the last 100 pages. - Laura praised her friend Britta, but their was no back story behind the praise so it made it questionable. - Their was barely any back story behind Laura and her group of friends.. for example, why there fall out, what made them that elite group, etc etc. - A lot of the characters had pieces of other people like Jens girlfriend, or Lauras dad and they were confusing because of course, backstory. Lol - The way she ended the book was as if she is going to make a second book... I hate that but I hope she does, lol. - The book in the beginning is confusing and slow, but if you stick through it, it is well worth it. Other than that, I truly enjoyed the book. I was fully engaged, I had a sense of who one of the villains was but did not see the second villain is. The writing was amazing and the history behind it was very interesting. Thank you Harper Perrenial for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janet Lavine

    The Historians offers its readers an unusual blend -- learning about Sweden's so-called neutrality during WWII, and creating a mystery that involves the unearthing of a a very disturbing part of Sweden's/Scandinavia's history. I was particularly interested to learn so much about the Sami, the natives of northern Sweden (Lapland), and their role in the hierarchy of Swedish society. The plot revolves around the brutal death of a graduate student who had been part of a very tightly knit group of 5 The Historians offers its readers an unusual blend -- learning about Sweden's so-called neutrality during WWII, and creating a mystery that involves the unearthing of a a very disturbing part of Sweden's/Scandinavia's history. I was particularly interested to learn so much about the Sami, the natives of northern Sweden (Lapland), and their role in the hierarchy of Swedish society. The plot revolves around the brutal death of a graduate student who had been part of a very tightly knit group of 5 Scandinavian students -- think Big Chill closeness and intimacy.....who drift apart in subsequent years. Britta is murdered, and the other woman in the group of five, Laura, whose job involves trading with the Germans, takes on the challenge of unearthing the disturbing facts surrounding her death. She reunites with the three men, who conveniently are living in Stockholm, seeking answers. And a bright young bureaucrat, Jens, gets involved as well. Slowly some horrible truths emerge...... every society has skeletons in its closet......and everyone who you assume is evil may not be (and vice versa). Quite a few of the characters are stereotypes......and there are a lot of characters....but the result is a fairly satisfying read that touches on subjects of good v evil, morality, and notions of racial superiority.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sherrie74

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I am surprised more people haven't read this or given reviews .... this book was a serious mind-blowing experience. Sweden ... who knew? With all the books on WWII I have been reading I am getting more interested in what happened in other countries in Europe before, during or after the war besides France and UK. This book came up in " Other books you may be interested in". Who knew Sweden was one of the first countries to be involved in the racial profiling of other nationalities and only wanting I am surprised more people haven't read this or given reviews .... this book was a serious mind-blowing experience. Sweden ... who knew? With all the books on WWII I have been reading I am getting more interested in what happened in other countries in Europe before, during or after the war besides France and UK. This book came up in " Other books you may be interested in". Who knew Sweden was one of the first countries to be involved in the racial profiling of other nationalities and only wanting "pure" bloodlines in their country to the effect of forced sterilization of those that were not. FACT: This went on until the 1970's ... WTF?? Okay .. yes this is in fact what this is about .... some of the characters are real you will find out who in th Authors Notes at back. Storyline involves 3 people, all living separate lives until a murder of a close friend of one of them takes place. This starts a ball rolling where no one is safe and all their lives are at risk. GREAT story and very enlightening. Makes you wonder what would have happened if Sweden had not stayed Neutral during the war and had actually sided with Germany. WOW

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    3.5 stars, rounded up for originality. I loved the setting in Sweden during WWII. This is not a war novel. There are no battles, etc. Instead the reader follows the Historians, a group of friends who were history majors when they were at university a few years earlier. They stumble upon a sinister plot that affects the entire nation, perhaps the world, and they don't know who they can trust with the information. They realize how high the stakes are when people begin to die or disappear. It was m 3.5 stars, rounded up for originality. I loved the setting in Sweden during WWII. This is not a war novel. There are no battles, etc. Instead the reader follows the Historians, a group of friends who were history majors when they were at university a few years earlier. They stumble upon a sinister plot that affects the entire nation, perhaps the world, and they don't know who they can trust with the information. They realize how high the stakes are when people begin to die or disappear. It was mostly great, but the novel's organization detracted from my enjoyment. It has multiple POV, which can be ok if necessary, but it was choppy and distracting. Just as I was getting into one character/story, the short chapter would end and a new POV would begin. It would have been better to organize it by days? Or months, and have longer chapters? The writing itself was only ok, but the author is Swedish born, so perhaps English isn't her focus language? Still, an interesting read! Note on content: Rare language, one mild sex scene, several violent scenes. Themes of torture, kidnapping, child abuse and endangerment. Recommended for teens and up.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    I really liked this one, partly because of the unusual setting for a WWII novel, wartime (1943) Sweden. It is rather dense to start with as the various characters and plot-strands are developed, but once it starts to come together the pace increases and the story absorbs. The strands, one involving the Sami, another the murder of a bright young woman and the third, secret racial experiments focused near a mine in the north all intrigue. A former close University friend of the murdered woman, pri I really liked this one, partly because of the unusual setting for a WWII novel, wartime (1943) Sweden. It is rather dense to start with as the various characters and plot-strands are developed, but once it starts to come together the pace increases and the story absorbs. The strands, one involving the Sami, another the murder of a bright young woman and the third, secret racial experiments focused near a mine in the north all intrigue. A former close University friend of the murdered woman, privileged young Laura Dahlgren, and Jens Rengell (Secretary to the Foreign Minister) attempt to uncover a conspiracy as the death toll mounts. There are a few elements that feel a little too modern (and penicillin wasn't available in isolated areas in 1943) but the setting, the tension and the history ensured an ultimately compelling and rewarding read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Judy appell

    very confusing in the beginning. took awhile to understand the flow. i usually like back and forth stories, but this was much more confusing than most. the premise of the book is amazing and scary. it is a book that stays with you. this book tells you that what you see right in front of you should not always be believed. that the world is run by an elite underground, which is even prevalent today. this elite underground is there for their own agenda, which changes. after i finished reading this b very confusing in the beginning. took awhile to understand the flow. i usually like back and forth stories, but this was much more confusing than most. the premise of the book is amazing and scary. it is a book that stays with you. this book tells you that what you see right in front of you should not always be believed. that the world is run by an elite underground, which is even prevalent today. this elite underground is there for their own agenda, which changes. after i finished reading this book, i did feel the need to go back and re read the beginning to get a better understanding. i think the reason for the lower rating from many, is, because of the confusion at the start. i won this from good reads. i am glad i did. although i found it hard at first, i feel this is a must read book and am happy that i won this book. thank you good reads!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Walker

    The Historians is set in Sweden during WWII. A group of close-knit students studied history together and formed a bond with each other and with their mentor professor. When Britta, one of their cohort, is found brutally tortured and murdered on campus, the suspense begins. At the same time, a Sami girl disappears in a northern mining community. What unfolds is a dangerous chase to find Britta's killer. A Sami boy, Teneli, searches for his sister while we learn that experiments are being performe The Historians is set in Sweden during WWII. A group of close-knit students studied history together and formed a bond with each other and with their mentor professor. When Britta, one of their cohort, is found brutally tortured and murdered on campus, the suspense begins. At the same time, a Sami girl disappears in a northern mining community. What unfolds is a dangerous chase to find Britta's killer. A Sami boy, Teneli, searches for his sister while we learn that experiments are being performed on the Sami people by a group who believe in the racial superiority of Scandinavians. All is not what it seems, however, as our main character, Laura, discovers that the culprits are closer to her than she knows. This isn't the golden image of Swedes that we have grown comfortable with. A somewhat convoluted plot with interesting social commentary on Sweden's troubling experiences in the war.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    My Thoughts: I’ve gone back and forth on whether to give this book a good or very good rating. I’m not usually a half-star reviewer, but technically this book is 3 1/2 stars. What I love most about the story is the location. I’ve since bought 3 Scandinavian historical fiction books. These books are Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavrandsdatter by Sigrid Undset (3 books or volumes in this edition), and The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker. A 2nd reason I love this story is the tim My Thoughts: I’ve gone back and forth on whether to give this book a good or very good rating. I’m not usually a half-star reviewer, but technically this book is 3 1/2 stars. What I love most about the story is the location. I’ve since bought 3 Scandinavian historical fiction books. These books are Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavrandsdatter by Sigrid Undset (3 books or volumes in this edition), and The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker. A 2nd reason I love this story is the time period-World War II. A 3rd reason I love this story is it taught me about a period in history and a country I knew little about. What tipped the review to 3 and 1/2 stars is I feel it took too long to make it where the book came together in a form I enjoyed reading. A 2nd point is I don’t understand the heightened affection for Britta. Britta is characterized as beloved (several times) and even idolized by Laura. Is there a background story I missed? I also noticed the group of 5 friends had overlapping relationships where they became more than just friends. This is another background story that is not developed. The relationship between Laura and her father is complex. Their conflict and the themes going along with it could make an excellent standalone story. My last points made the story feel undeveloped and distracting. Source: I received a complimentary uncorrected eBook copy from NetGalley, I was not required to write a positive review.

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