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.
“A powerful, evocative redemption story whose blend of psychological suspense and unsettling supernatural atmosphere is heightened by human obsessions and ghostly threats.”
“Set on the Swedish island of Orust, this disquieting tale of loss, grief, and rekindling of hope from Jansson (The Forbidden Place) hooks the reader from the start. (…) Jansson does a good job maintaining the uncertainty and the suspense. Horror fans will also want to check this out.”
Publishers Weekly (US)
“She skillfully balances between suspense and horror – and between the natural and supernatural that is hinted at, maybe just imagined, maybe it’s real.”
Blekinge Läns Tidning (SE)
“Susanne Jansson has written a book filled with suggestive atmosphere that grabs hold. She also succeeds with keeping up the suspense and the energy that makes me truly need to know what really happened to Adam. It is also a story about what long suffering, grief, and loneliness can do to a person. How grief affects us, both in our lives but also in our actions. What we are willing to do in the search for comfort. I’m fascinated by the amount of suspense that can be created in what looks like an ordinary community with ordinary people. Without a drop of blood, cruelty, or malignancy. Susanne Jansson writes with respect for her characters.”
“Susanne Jansson has the gift of writing suspense with a hint of mysticism. Here it is the ocean that lures people with its dark depth. The text is often enchanted and nature is a given character in its own right. The author skillfully depicts both the island of Orust and the people who live there.”
Dast Magazine (SE)
“The author has written an incredibly suggestive and atmospheric story with delicately beautiful nature depictions and an undercurrent of something that might be supernatural while still remaining firmly anchored in a realistic present with flesh and blood characters. The depiction of how parenthood is broken down by grief when a young son disappears is absolutely heartbreaking. The parents’ and Maya’s search for answers about what truly happened creates multiple nerve-racking twists and turns. Winter Water is a truly thrilling page-turner.”