Winter Water

Legend has it that the ocean can lure children and make them fall into the depths to never return…

Martin and Alexandra live in an old fishing cottage on the picturesque island of Orust, on the West coast of Sweden. Their son Adam is barely three years old and Nellie is only a few months. Martin has always been drawn to the ocean and spent his summers in the cottage that he later inherited from his parents. When he and Alexandra married, it was a given that they would move to the island permanently.

Martin begins to cultivate a mussel farm, but he soon runs into trouble with the locals. He begins to receive threats from islanders who believe the land he has been granted to farm on is actually theirs. Later, the mussel farm is sabotaged and Martin begins to feel it is time to give up.

One weekend Alexandra travels to Gothenburg and brings baby Nellie with her. Martin and Adam plan a cozy weekend home just the two of them, starting off with a picnic down by the ocean. Right as they are about to leave, the phone rings. Martin looks away for one minute – and Adam is gone. Panic ensues. Where is his son?

The police are summoned to the scene, but when they find one of Adam’s rain boots in the ocean, they conclude that the boy has drowned. The loss of his young son pushes Martin into a deep depression, fueled by guilt. He withdraws more and more and loses a grip on reality. Once he even attempts to reunite with his son in the waves only to be dragged out by his despondent wife at the very last minute.

Art photographer Maya Linde has decided that she needs a change from her life in the deep forests of Dalsland and arranges a house swap with another artist, bringing her to the island of Orust for a year. She befriends a neighboring couple who are close friends with Martin and Alexandra. When Maya learns of Adam’s disappearance, she, who used to moonlight as a police photographer, can’t help but grow interested.

Soon Maya befriends Martin and slowly becomes a confidant. Together May and Martin make a macabre discovery: other children have tragically died in the waves, all on the same day in January, all in the exact same spot, though decades apart. Can it really be a coincidence? Or does the ocean lure the children to it? Martin becomes obsessed with finding answers and Maya is the only one who doesn’t simply dismiss his seemingly crazy ideas.

But did Adam really drown? And who is threatening Martin? The answer to the mystery has its own tragic roots.

Set against a backdrop of the whispering ocean, Winter Water is a highly suggestive and engaging suspense novel about grief and what it makes us capable of.

Susanne Jansson was a Swedish writer who made her literary debut in 2017 with the suspense novel The Forbidden Place. Her second novel Winter Water will be published posthumously in August, 2020.

Learn more about Susanne Jansson