The Black Country, by Kerry Hadley-Pryce, is a deliciously dark tale of a couple whose lives are falling apart. It is narrated by an acquaintance who is recounting what he has been told by each of the pair. From the beginning there is foreboding, a sinister undercurrent that proves well founded as the protagonists’ secrets are revealed.
Harry is a teacher and Maddie an estate agent. They met at university; their relationship is troubled. Harry fears that Maddie will leave him, as she did once before. Both ponder how they now feel about the other. Their relationship is a battle for control.
Driving home after a party the couple are involved in a road accident which they do not report. They blame each other for what happened as they struggle to cope with the guilt they feel. Waiting for the expected repercussions, for the police to come knocking on their door, they argue and fight. Behind closed doors few are what they first seem.
The narrator is party to many of the couple’s deepest thoughts. His voice is assured, intimate, and chilling. Sordid secrets from the past bubble to the surface, the couple’s reactions to the accident and the weight of guilt squeezing out confessions of events each believes the other must now suspect. Little of what is being revealed penetrates preconceptions until all else has been stripped away.
This is a short book in which a great deal is explored. Harry and Maddie claim they are trying to be truthful in their recollections to the narrator but each will only see life as it revolves around them.
And who is the narrator? That revelation made me question everything I had just read.
I raced to the end, desperate to discover where the disturbing build up would lead. On finishing I read the whole tale again, it is that good.
A discomforting, original and haunting work of fiction. This is a fabulous read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Salt.