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Black Water    by Louise Doughty Amazon.com order for
Black Water
by Louise Doughty
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2017 (2016)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Carrol Wolverton

'Thirty years of human suppression had brought foreign investment flooding in.' Such are the thoughts of Harper as he arrives in Jakarta and surveys the Central Business District. Strangely, this economic situation is his business. Officially, he is a researcher for industrial clients seeking profitable stable locations at low wages.

He's bringing good things, right? Progress! Afraid not. His job is far more sinister. The Institute that employs him takes assignments the CIA doesn't want to be caught doing. He does the dirty work that corporations wish to hide. Not only do Institute employees study economic conditions, they seek to control them for the benefit of foreign governments, foreign investors, and local moguls.

He took this job after military service and a jumbled childhood brought about by the death of his father and an unstable mother. His heritage is Indonesian and African. His dark complexion allows him to fit in to some extent in Indonesia where he is sent.
He does his job, and people die. He delivers his messages and non-helpful governments and leaders get attacked. Innocent victims abound. The results yield an unfortunate case of PSTD for Harper. Night sweats and nightmares plague his psyche. He is convinced his own employers will kill him eventually. Is he right? Even though he reaches an unstable self peace of sorts, we are left with that question.

This novel of conscience-gone-wrong spins a good tale because of the always lurking unspoken atmosphere surrounding him draining his soul. This is well symbolized by the never seen but ever present gecko and his distinctively eerie Eh-ur cry. The critter voice is temporarily stalled but never eliminated. It will always exist for Harper at least.

I fault this novel for a weak beginning. The protagonist is troubled and confused, but the reader should not be. Once you get into the novel, it's good, but it takes a bit to get there. The author also has the tendency to write over-long paragraphs, which is hard on any reader. Overall, however, with minor flaws, Black Water is well worth the read.

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