cover image Blackwater


Kerstin Ekman. Doubleday Books, $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-48178-6

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. (Feb.)