Review: ‘Black Water’ by Louise Doughty

This book was an interesting read for me. It’s not something I would pick up on my own, as thrillers are not my thing. Even if I were considering one, the title, cover and blurb would all have put me off. Black Water seems a very generic, easily forgotten title. All of this considered, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. That said, being surprised doesn’t equate to actually liking it, and as such this is quite a short review.


The novel opens with John Harper lying in bed convinced he is about to be killed. He begins an affair with a woman. The story is structured into three sections, with the middle one going back in time to fill in his past, from his early childhood. For me, the story really came alive in these sections about Harper as a boy.

While I was surprised to enjoy this book as much as I did, I think that is because really, it wasn’t a thriller. In particular for me, it completely lacked the pace I was expecting – Harper as a character is very reflective, rather than active, and a lot of the story focused on his romantic relationship rather than his ‘troubled past’. The threat that he would be killed in his bed dissipated very quickly – within the first forty or so pages, he had decided that perhaps he was imagining it.

Overall, while I found this a perfectly good read, it didn’t make a huge impression on me. If anything, I was mostly left confused by the disconnect between how the novel has been presented and its actual contents. All in all, I feel fairly ambiguous towards it – and as such, would make no particular recommendation, unless this is the kind of thing you’re drawn to. It was enjoyable while reading, but once I put it down I mostly felt a bit confused.


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