Dive into 1960s Indonesia, a place of conflict, drama and espionage with Louise Doughty's latest novel, Black Water. James Walton is pleasantly surprised by yet another gripping novel from the author of Apple Tree Yard. 

black water

I’ve always enjoyed Louise Doughty’s books—especially 2013’s best-selling Apple Tree Yard, which catapulted her into the literary big time. Even so, I wasn’t quite prepared for how good her new one would be.

John Harper is an Indonesian-born Dutch-man working for a kind of private espionage company that helps Western businesses abroad. Because of his background, he was sent to Indonesia during the 1965 uprising that many readers won’t know much about, but that cost more than a million lives. In 1998, and in his fifties, he returns to find the country in turmoil once again.

 

 

"Gruesomely well-researched history"

 

 

The result pulls off the John le Carré trick of combining real moral complexity with page-turning excitement. But that’s just for starters.

Doughty’s story-telling is so generous that we also get a touching tale of middle-aged love, some gruesomely well-researched history and, almost in passing, a terrific section set in pre-Civil Rights America that many writers might have considered worthy of an entire novel.

Not only that, but Black Water has a sense of place as vivid as Graham Greene’s.

 

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