Black Water (Hardcover)

A Novel

By Louise Doughty

Sarah Crichton Books, 9780374114015, 352pp.

Publication Date: September 13, 2016

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (3/30/2017)
Pre-Recorded Audio Player (9/13/2016)
Compact Disc (9/13/2016)
MP3 CD (9/13/2016)
Compact Disc (9/13/2016)

List Price: 26.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2016

From the author of Apple Tree Yard comes a masterful thriller about espionage, love, and redemption.

John Harper is in hiding in a remote hut on a tropical island. As he lies awake at night, listening to the rain on the roof, he believes his life may be in danger. But he is less afraid of what is going to happen than of what he’s already done.

In a nearby town, he meets Rita, a woman with her own tragic history. They begin an affair, but can they offer each other redemption? Or do the ghosts of the past always catch up with us in the end?

Flashing back from late 1990s Indonesia to Cold War Europe, Harper’s childhood in civil rights-era California, and Indonesia during the massacres of 1965 and the subsequent military dictatorship, Black Water explores some of the darkest events of recent history through the story of one troubled man.

In this gripping follow-up to Apple Tree Yard, Louise Doughty writes with the intelligence, vivid characterization, and moral ambiguity that make her fiction resonate in the reader’s mind long after the final page.

About the Author

Louise Doughty’s novel Whatever You Love was short-listed for the Costa Book Award and long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She is the author of several other novels and a book of nonfiction, A Novel in a Year, based on her hugely popular newspaper column. She also writes plays and journalism and broadcasts regularly for BBC Radio 4. Doughty lives in London.

Praise For Black Water: A Novel


“Doughty’s excellent new novel is a character study, a glimpse at mid-century American civil rights, a thriller, a meditation on the effects of foreign policy on individuals, a modern love story and a portrait of Indonesian unrest in the 20th century. . . If it sounds like a handful, it is. But Doughty has found an ideal vehicle for her wide-ranging interests.” —Olen Steinhauer, The New York Times Book Review

“Doughty’s language is punchy, visually striking and emotionally potent . . . This is a compelling and vivid psychological drama, with plenty of bite.” —Leyla Sanai, The Guardian

“Skilfully drawn and compelling . . . This serious novel marks a departure for Doughty, whose psychological thrillers, including Apple Tree Yard, have been so successful. This one strays more into le Carré territory— where she seems equally at home.” —Carla McKay, Daily Mail

“Powerful, probing fiction in the tradition of Graham Greene and John le Carré.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Doughty takes a page from John le Carré, crafting a riveting, psychological, morally ambiguous tale. . . richly detailed . . . [T]he role of mercenaries in world affairs adds a new perspective to the spy novel genre.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Through Harper, Doughty creates a jarringly realistic backdrop of Indonesia’s violent past, sharply contrasting the menacing atmosphere with a growing romance and Harper’s memories of a vulnerable childhood in 1950s Los Angeles. A tense, contemplative literary thriller and worthy follow-up to Doughty’s critically acclaimed Apple Tree Yard (2013).” —Booklist

"Doughty has created a novel comparable to Graham Greene’s masterpiece The Quiet American in its taut exploration of morality on a geopolitical and personal scale. . . The plot is complex and delves into dark, unjustly forgotten corners of history. . . as much a character study as it is an espionage thriller. . . Black Water is a gripping thriller, incisive character study, a critique of US foreign policy and a love story haunted by the 1965 massacres in Indonesia.” —Shelf Awareness


“Doughty is a brilliant storyteller who knows how to build the suspense to a breaking point.” —Kate Saunders, The Times (London)

“Doughty writes with consummate pacing and psychological acuity, bringing fresh force to a common regret of adulterous lovers.” —The New Yorker

“A disquieting, perceptive and gripping read.” —Amber Pearson, Daily Mail

“Extraordinary . . . I’ve never read anything like it.” —Ruth Rendell, The Guardian