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Blackwater Hardcover – January 1, 1996

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Annie Raft and her six-year-old daughter arrive in the remote Swedish village of Blackwater one midsummer night to meet Annie's boyfriend, who never shows up. In the morning, they stumble across two campers who have been stabbed to death in their tent. At the center of the subsequent murder investigation are the town's physician, who could have mistaken the campers for his wife and her lover; the members, including Annie's boyfriend, of a back-to-the-earth commune; and the Brandbergs, a family of rough-and-tumble locals who don't cotton to outsiders. It turns out that the youngest Brandberg, Johan, terrified of his father and half-brothers, has recently run away from home and in fact was seen passing close to the murder site on the night the campers were killed. Eighteen years later, with the double murders still unsolved, a string of coincidences leads to Annie's death and the eventual unraveling of the mystery. This is splendid fiction, dark and compelling, filled with off-center characters and ominous events, told smoothly through multiple points of view. Its setting-the logging-ravaged Scandinavian woods-matches perfectly the sense of gloom that permeates the plot. Despite having written 16 previous novels, Ekman is making her English-language debut here, and the translation seems flawless. It's no surprise that this novel, first published in Sweden in 1993, has won the Swedish Crime Academy's Award for Best Crime Novel, the August Prize and the Nordic Council's Literary Prize. Major ad/promo; author tour; foreign rights sold in 14 countries.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Blackwater is a densely plotted psychological thriller set in northern Sweden, near the Norwegian border. Centered around the unsolved murder of two sleeping campers, the novel focuses on the anguish of Annie Raft, a teacher who discovers the bodies, and Birgir Torbjornsson. Eighteen years later Annie again sees the mysterious young man she saw running through the woods that night. He is her daughter's lover. Annie's identification sets in motion a spiral of tragic events that lead to the shocking denouement. In her first novel to be published in the United States, Ekman, the winner of several literary awards in Sweden, creates an aura of fear and malaise as she depicts a suspicious, isolated community shocked by a crime but unwilling to give up one of its own. She infuses the novel with the eerie atmosphere of the North, where it's either always dark or light but never truly warm. Blackwater is rich in psychological nuance and character. Highly recommended.
Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, Kan.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (January 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385481780
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385481786
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Gail Moore on May 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
A young man and woman are brutally stabbed to death in their tent while camping in beautiful surroundings beside a river in the mountains of Sweden. Though a number of people were in the area at the time, no one has apparently seen or knows anything and the crime remains unsolved for years.

Bleak, slow moving who-done-it style mystery sent in a remote area of Sweden, this book is a compelling read because of its characters. As well as being a complex crime novel, an intricate puzzle with clues to be picked up along the way, this is also a psychological thriller exploring the depths of human depression. The theme of this story is loneliness & being the outsider - Johan is an outsider in his own family, the Starhill community is apart from the regular country people, Annie is outside the school community she teaches in, the Lapps are outside mainstream Swedish society, and Birger is the ultimate symbol of aloneness.

This was my 2nd reading of this novel and was most helpful, the novel is so disjointed with several plot lines that this time I noticed so many more clues along the way. Events take place over years, eventually the different threads come together. I really enjoyed this book but more because of the all too realistic characters & the vivid detailed descriptions of the landscape than the actual crime plot.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Peter Mackay on March 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a book full of people with secrets, people who had a hand in it, people who could have done it, people who were thought to have done it.
A book that you need to read twice over to tie it all together, to pick up the clues once you know the ending. It's all there, but like the paths through the vanished forest, they are hard to find.
A complex book, full of strands that diverge, cometogether, lie dormant for years, and finally tie themselves up in a sad little package. The list of characters helps. A little. A map would help even more.
A dark and difficult book. Full of atmosphere. Full of seasonal details. Full of fascinating, well-worked out characters. Full of secrets.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 5, 1998
Format: Paperback
During a holiday in 1994 visiting Oslo and Bergen I was given a gift of "Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow" (F. David Translation). I finished it on my flight back to San Francisco and felt the utter void experienced after reading a book that one feels shall not have any peer. Fortunately, I was wrong. It took only two years to find "Blackwater" and Kerstin Ekman. Blackwater is a novel of vast human perception blending fatalistic destiny and paganism along with basic Sherlock Holmes sleuthing all set against a sometimes desolate, but beautiful and lonely landscape that conceals a constant undercurrent of emotional arousal. An aura of mystery and suspense surrounds each and every highly descriptive locale within the novel from the initial murder site in the woods to a secret mountain hideaway along the Norwegian border to an apartment in Stockholm and many others along the way. This has to be one of the finest novels that I have ever read regardless of genre.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By mstress130 on May 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ekman's writing is both organic and intellectual--her descriptions of the natural landscape surrounding Blackwater and environs are darkly compelling, and beautifully wrought. The reader is right there at the peak of a northern midsummer--you can practically smell the lichen clinging to the dwarf birch trees. And the vibrancy of the opening section--the simple brutality of the Brandbergs, and their resemblance to characters in the Sagas; Annie and Mia's dreamlike and confused wanderings through the twilight forest--were so vivid I just had to keep reading.

If only this were enough. I was looking forward to the darkness of it all, the psychology of both the individual characters and the village as a whole--this is something that Swedish crime novels offer in spades, and is part of what makes them so compelling. But the novel's much-lauded psychological element performs the exact opposite of a psychological exploration--Ekman shows us the emotion just below the surface, but doesn't plumb it. She also then completely shuts us off from it, by never allowing any of the characters to truly connect with each other. I mean, none, in a book full of parents and children, lovers, couples and siblings. The closest thing we get to emotion is Birger, whose justifiable emotion everyone else considers an embarrassment. The reader is left with an extremely depressing Weltanschauung, where all the characters are deeply invested in not saying things, and somehow never relating that to why they're unhappy. And since the structure of the book--which resembles Annie's confused, dreamlike rambling through the forest--exists to play on this "psychological" stuff, it mostly just ends up feeling powerful, but incoherent.

As for who done it?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alan Barker on August 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a must-read.
Blackwater is a beautifully plotted thriller. It does what all good thrillers should do: it uses the mystery of a brutal crime to explore deeper, darker mysteries.
I came to the book having read Ekman's The Forest of Hours, a novel which shares with Blackwater an obsession with time, memory and survival. Above all, Kerstin Ekman evokes the forces of nature with exquisite detail and passion. She is a writer of stature. We need more of her novels in English.
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