Black Water opens as we meet John Harper who is hiding somewhere up a mountain, in the jungle of Bali and slowly through his thoughts we build a picture of a haunted and sad man against a background of danger and violence. He is in his fifties, a man running from his past when he meets Rita who he believes he could spend the rest of his life with, if he can be honest with her. We learn that she has her own demons that also keep her awake at night so together can they face those and build a life together.
The story switches effortlessly between Harper of 1998 when the novel is set and his childhood in the US with a backdrop of the Indonesian massacres of 1965, one of the untold tragedies of the 20th century. There are heartbreaking scenes when Bud drowns and Harper (Nicholaas) is taken back to Holland by his mother leaving Michael senior and Nina bereft.
Doughty has a quiet style in building up tension in the plot and whilst this is a very different story to her previous novel, Apple Tree Yard, it does have that similar brilliant underlining sense of thrill and danger that I loved.
Faber & Faber/9780571323555/£12.99