Maddie and Harry are a couple, but right from the off you get the idea they are only a couple 'for the sake of it'. Neither are particularly likeable - and that works well for this creepy, quite unsettling at times, novel. The general gist of the story is that Maddie (an estate agent) and Harry (a teacher) attend a party where they meet Jonathon Cotard. He seems a much better prospect to Maddie (he's basically everything Harry isn't). As they drive away from the party Maddie and Harry argue, lose control of the car and hit someone. It's not really a spoiler to say that someone is Cotard. In a panic they flee the scene.
And that is where the story really picks up.
The story is told by an untold figure (for the sake of this review I shall call this person The Narrator). It could be anyone but is obviously someone who knows both the lead characters. The Narrator guides you through events, leaving you feeling like a helpless watcher as the lives of Maddie and Harry, both past and present are revealed and unravelled. You watch as past events catch up and tangle up with the mess that is their present situation and you keep on watching, despite how uncomfortable it may make you feel. You may put the book down for a while but you'll be back before too long. You'll want to keep on watching.
I found this to be an intriguing tale right from the off. I like a good mystery, trying to work things out before the end. The Black Country had me guessing right up to the reveal more or less. The characters of Maddie and Harry worked well - they were not nice people to start with and their development throughout the story didn't make them any better but the bickering and sniping made them quite real. The real star though is The Narrator, a character who could be anybody (you'll probably change your mind a few times, just like I did), who can, with just a few words, throw your ideas and expectations as to where events are leading straight out the window.
This is an addictive book that deserves to be up there with the likes of Gone Girl and Girl On The Train it's as good, if not better, than both. A dark and unsettling read that leaves you feeling like a voyeur of a car crash relationship (where you wouldn't look away even if you could), I really enjoyed it - 9/10 stars