On the picturesque Swedish island of Orust, Martin is spending the day with his son when he receives a phone call and turns his back for only a minute. In those few moments, his young son has gone missing and his little red bucket is bobbing in the waves. Winter Water is an atmospheric suspense novel about the nature of grief.
An atmospheric and compelling Swedish suspense of a parent’s greatest fear realized, written by a master storyteller.
Martin, who has always been drawn to the ocean, moves his wife Alexandra and their two young children move to his family’s idyllic summer cottage in the picturesque island village of Orust, on the west coast of Sweden. Martin begins to cultivate a mussel farm, where he soon runs into trouble with the locals.
One January weekend, when Martin is distracted by a ringing phone, he discovers that in those few moments, his young son has gone missing and his little red bucket is bobbing in the waves. Though his body is never found, it’s ruled an accidental drowning. Martin’s grief is all-consuming as he falls into a deep depression, withdrawing from his family and community.
When former police photographer Maya Linde arrives to Orust, she learns of the little boy’s disappearance and decides to do some investigating of her own. Martin and Maya grow closer as they learn the hidden truths of this town and the locals who have always mythologized the ocean.
Together they make a macabre discovery: other children have tragically died in the these waves, all on the same day in January, all in the exact same spot, though decades apart. Can it really be a coincidence, or is the ocean luring the children into its depths? As Maya and Martin grapple with a threat far greater than they ever imagined, they soon realize that the truth is actually much stranger than fiction…
Set against a backdrop of the whispering ocean, Winter Water is an atmospheric and gripping suspense novel of the nature of grief and the many acts is can make us capable of.
Winter Water is one of only a few Nordic noir novels that I have read. I am finding that the genre is very atmospheric, and I love that it often has wintery vibes.
Winter Water is branded across the cover as a thriller, which I do not think is accurate. While there is a mystery at the heart of the book, it lacked the pace, tension, and suspense of a thriller. Instead, Winter Water is a slow-burn that focuses on two individuals and is largely about grief, self-blame, and obsession.
I have said it before and I will say it again – inaccurate marketing does a disservice to a book and an author. It sets up a book to disappoint readers.
I love a good mystery novel and found Winter Water to be a quick read. However, I felt like something was missing from the story. The plot wandered a bit, especially away from the mystery. In fact, the mystery seemed solved for a solid portion of the book before the characters really started to question if it was. Instead, Jansson highlighted and focused on the grief process of a man struggling with the death of his son and his guilt.
The other main character of the book was tangentially related to the family and became strangely involved. Perhaps it is a cultural difference, but when I really thought about it, her involvement was odd. She was a strange addition and subplot to the book that did not seem to serve much of a purpose.
Jansson’s writing/the translation was quick and easy to read. I was easily propelled through Winter Water and remained interested despite the meandering plot.
Overall, I thought Winter Water was somewhere between okay and enjoyable. It ventured away from a mystery but still held my attention. I do not think diehard thriller readers or those that want a strong mystery may enjoy this one, but it is otherwise worth reading.
RECOMMENDED FOR SOME
December 7, 2021
Note: I received a gifted copy of this book from the publisher, Grand Central Publishing. Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.