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3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  1,209 ratings  ·  105 reviews
The English-language debut of one of Sweden's most prominent novelists--a mesmerizing thriller about a pair of grisly murders that go unsolved for nearly 20 years. Psychologically complex, emotionally dynamic, and deeply sensual, this brilliant novel is disturbing, provocative, and rich in atmosphere.
Hardcover, 434 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Doubleday (first published 1993)
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There are [Swedish] writers who set their novels in the more rural and sparsely populated settings, lending a decidedly chill atmosphere to the stories (the Swedish have an almost mystical attitude towards wooded areas and trees).

The above I wrote in my review of and in response to Camille Ceder's Frozen Moment, the first example of a Swedish book I've read that alluded to a Swede's almost mystical attitude toward the woods. Blackwater is another prime exemplar of this type of book, a
Part of what continues to fascinate me about Scandinavian crime fiction is the routine respect with which the authors approach their genre--the real quality of the prose and complexity not only of the plots themselves, but of the milieus--the characters and settings peripheral to the events that these books are 'about.' Ekman's Blackwater is currently my favorite example of this--an eliptical rendering of a brutal, unsolved crime in a mountain village in Northern Sweden. For although this crime ...more
Jim Coughenour
A welcome discovery for insatiable fans of Henning Mankell. This complicated, disturbing novel reminds me of the best of Ruth Rendell. The story is spread over a couple decades, involving a crime that evades understanding, let alone a solution. First published in Sweden in 1993, Blackwater won the Swedish Crime Academy's Award for Best Crime Novel, the August Prize and the Nordic Council's Literary Prize. The translation is excellent: it won't disappoint English-speaking readers either, although ...more
I always felt like I was being kept at arm's length while I read this book, and unfortunately that meant that I didn't develop any sort of sympathy for any of the characters. I'm thinking this is an "atmospheric thriller," because it definitely had a sense of time and place. However, when the location is not only the main character, but the only one that grows and changes, that is a bit of a problem. I have to admit, I finished the book not completely understanding everything that had happened. ...more

- Have you read Händelser Vid Vatten? Kerstin Ekman.

- Which one's that?

- You know, the controversial one. The teenage boy gets stuck down a well...

- Oh right, that one! Yes, I've read it. He escapes with a salamander in a bucket...

- Isn't it an eel?

- Well maybe an eel then. I don't know. And he somehow ends up in a relationship with this considerably older woman. He uses low-fat margarine to...

- Look, the low-fat margarine doesn't have anything much to do with the story.

- I know, I know. But som
Bleeeech. I hated everyone in this book and wished they all would die, and i am pissed that i spent my precious time reading it for nothing. The story kept promising interest, but never delivered. Crappy, crappy book.
Oh what a surprise this novel turned out to be. A pleasant surprise. I'd read about Kerstin Ekman in an article on "Nordic Nor", so was expecting another Wallender style police procedural. Was I wrong! Yes, there is a crime and it resonates through the book, but there is so much more. This is literature of the highest order. The theme of nature runs through this book like a mountain stream. The descriptions of the forests lakes and mountains are outstanding. Poetic and beautiful. The natural wor ...more
I really can't decide if it was an amazing book or just okay, but I mark okay anyway. If anyone wants to read something breaking most writing rules, this is the right book. POV change, multiple POVs, tempus change, long descriptions with name after name of plants or lots of adjectives. Basically, all the wrongs I dislike. Nevertheless, the narrators' voice seeped into my mind and made my thoughts dark and windling, like the story was. A very special style, and quite admirable, yet a difficult bo ...more
Malin Magnusson
Skogssnårigt spännande och tistelvackert, en norrbottnisk dubbelmordhistoria i klassisk Ekmanmiljö omöjlig att gissa sig fram till (ok jag hade rätt till 50% iallafall)
Inte den allra allra bästa och bara för att det är Ekman så blir det 4/5; hade någon annan skrivit den här romanen hade jag säkert varit eld&lågor och hivat iväg en 5a i ett hujj. Så gör väl en kass recensent men kanske kröp inte karaktärerna in i mitt huvud på samma vis som de brukar. Bara den överviktige provinsialläkaren Bi
Shame on me for letting this story sit unloved on my bookshelf for years!

I really enjoyed this crime novel. It's different, firstly as it's not written from the usual perspective of the detective solving the murder case. Kerstin Ekman wrote Blackwater from the point of view of three main characters and I really felt like I could relate to the thoughts, feelings and perspectives of three distinct individuals throughout.

It was beautifully written but in a very 'real' way. For me, what makes it st
Feb 26, 2011 Jill rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jill by: Jenny
Shelves: mystery
I had a hard time reading this book though it was very good. She is very descriptive in her writing but also very enigmatic. She starts out her chapters with "he" or "she" and it is only later into the page or pages you know which character she is referring to. As it takes place along the border of Sweden and Norway, the characters' names and the place names are very foreign so sometimes difficult to remember from chapter to chapter. I found myself skipping passages that were overly descriptive- ...more
Paula Leal de matos
A thriller that extends over 2 decades in Lapland. It describes the changes in this far north, isolated and remote part of Sweden,(with Lapland in Norway and Finland close by). In the seventies, the descrimination against Samis, the raindeer herders, the pervasive alcoholism and the hippy communities living in the forest. In the nineties, the forest already partly destroyed by the wood companies. More importantly, it shows the destruction that things left unsaid bring to people's lifes. The book ...more
Amazing book - intricate, delicate mystery that unfolds over a 30-year period. The detailed recounting of people's lives in a remote part of Sweden - beautiful descriptions of the landscape, intense listings of plants and seasons, all wound around the story of a murder that goes unsolved for 30 years. The history and changes that the characters undergo are fascinating and draw the reader into a flawless mystery. Ekman gets deep into the characters' lives and souls, and unflinching, tells the sto ...more
Dark dark dark, wow was this a dark book. The writing was strange and a bit confusing at first, but once I got used to the author's unique style, I enjoyed the book. While I remember liking it, at a certain point I tried to finish it as quickly as possible because the book seemed to be lowering a depressing pall over pretty much everything. It's good, but be prepared for dark, heavy stuff.

Oh, and the eel in the bucket was a particularly nice touch.

La Biblioteca
You can translate this review on:

Le sinossi sono come i bugiardini delle medicine, non andrebbero mai lette. Questa, come potete vedere, promette momenti mozzafiato, adrenalina, palpitazioni. In realtà quello che mi sono trovata tra le mani è un libro paludoso, triste e vischioso. Avrebbe anche un bell'intreccio una buona dose di personaggi con i loro bravi segreti, una quantità di fili e strade sbarrate sufficienti a renderlo una vicenda abbastanza vero
Kristin Butler
I know nothing about Swedish crime fiction, other than, of course, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I came across this book inadvertently,and was immediately intrigued. It was a little difficult to follow at first, since the names and geography were completely foreign to an American who has not travelled to Scandinavia. However, I became very engaged with the characters, the psychological profiles, the beautiful descriptions of the landscape, so much so that I have a rekindled interest in travel ...more
Got to page 165. This particular abandonment dis of a novel should be put on me, not the book itself or the writing skill of this author. Although it is a wordy, descriptive mood and deep individual thought pattern/ perception that is going on here in this novel. Many more words in description and interior thought than there are in dialog- by multiples, in fact. But my interest just died. Because this Blackwater is bleak and beyond stark, and as far as I can tell from nearly any of the myriad ch ...more
I will read this book again. I was too young to understand, but obviously not too young to forget it. I remember darkness, coldness and cruelty. I don't know why, but this is what stayed with me. I've seen it in the library, and soon, I will give it another go.
Sharm Alagaratnam
One of my favourite books of all time. Especially good if read by a fireplace and it's dark and snowy outside!
I read this one for my book club. It was an odd but strangely alluring tale of Sweden, communes, an eel, and murder.
Kirsty Darbyshire

I'm not sure what to make of this book so far. It's got plenty of intriguing stuff going on but it's not unputdownable. It starts in what I presume is the present day, at least it's eighteen years after the story that starts to be told a few pages in. In those first few pages we see at least three of the characters from the main story that comes after them.

One of the problems I have with translated stories is that I wonder how much of the writing is what would have been in the original version.

The story centers around Annie Raft, a single mother who is traveling to the northern part of Sweden to join her boyfriend Dan who lives in a sort of commune there. When Annie and her daughter get off the bus, however, Dan is nowhere to be found. She and her daughter scramble to find a way to get to the remote commune, and while hiking through a wooded area, Annie stumbles upon a murder scene. Two people camping in a tent have been stabbed to death. The murder remains unsolved and years later, A ...more
Blackwater is not your typical Nordic noir work. Usually, Scandinavian crime novels focus around a flawed protagonist becoming entangled with a gruesome crime that plays on the investigator's neuroses and weaknesses.

Blackwater has no such character; really there is no real "investigator" character at all. There is a crime, but it is presented in such a way that we don't really get to know the victims, or care all that much about them. Blackwater is not about who killed them.

Instead, what this bo
Düsteres Drama rund um einen Mord an zwei Jugendliche im Norden von Schweden und wie sich das Leben der damaligen 'Zeitzeugen' 18 Jahre später entwickelt hat. Ganz besonders wird hier das Leben von Birger (dem Azt), Annie (der Lehrerin) und Johan (einem jugendlichen Ausreißer) betrachtet. Dieses Wechsel-Spiel der Geschichten, Perspektiven und Gefühle hat mich nicht so sehr gestört. Was mich viel mehr störte: sooo viele Namen von Menschen und Ort- oder Landschaften, und alle wurden einfach so unv ...more
This book made me dream of living somewhere in Northern Sweden, near the Norwegian border; somewhere cold and desolate. Perhaps alone, if communities up there prove to be as difficult as they have been portrayed in this story. But living alone up there can make one go crazy.

As far as mystery & crime thrillers go, this was quite good - the mystery surrounding the double murder increases and the last 120 pages were quite surprising at some points - but the rest was not so compelling. Even thou
Well I persevered and finished this novel, but it was a hard read. It was dark, often times confusing, and I could not identify with, respect or even remotely like any of the characters. Sometimes when I finish reading a book, I need time to let it settle before I am ready to start a new one, But in this case I'll be very happy to begin reading a new book. I need to get my mind off these characters.
William Shaw
A crime book? Yes, in that a double murder happens and is, finally, solved. But not in terms of approach. This is closer to literary fiction; an elliptical reflection on the lives of those affected by the murder, as victims and suspects. Slow, reflective and hugely enjoyable, but not if you're expecting a blood and guts thriller. Even the bodies are barely glimpsed; all you register is the effect on the woman who stumbles across them.
This has to be one of the most boring books I have ever read and another peak in the long line of depressive Swedish crime novels. It IS advertised as a crime novel (which is the big mistake, because then that's what I expect, but didn't get!) and yes, there is a murder, but for more than half the book nobody makes the slightest attempt to find out, who the culprit is. Instead, we get to know the stories of several random people who were there the night of the crime, but none of them are the sli ...more
As a fan of mystery, particularly Scandinavian/Nordic and what I call natural-setting mystery, I really enjoyed this book. The characters are fascinating, the plot intriguing (I wouldn't consider this a plot-driven mystery, but more of a character-based mystery), and the use of setting is one of the best I've read (I generally prefer sparse description--this book is seeped in description, but in a way that lent greater substance to the characters and plot and drew me in more deeply, rather than ...more
This book was different from all the other Scandinavian murder mysteries which I've read in that it was not told from an investigator's perspective. The action moves around in time a lot--going back to the past, returning to the present. At the beginning of each chapter, you have to read a couple of sentences to establish which character's perspective you are getting. It made me pay attention rather than reading quickly as I usually do. I found I really didn't like any of the characters, but tha ...more
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Kerstin Lillemor Ekman is a Swedish novelist.
She began her career with a string of successful detective novels (among others De tre små mästarna ("The Three Little Masters") and Dödsklockan ("The Death Clock")) but later went on to persue psychological and social themes. Among her later works are Mörker och blåbärsris ("Darkness and Blueberries"), set in northern Sweden, and Händelser vid vatten (
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