Review: Black River by Will Dean.


Hello Book Lover,

When I received a copy of Will Dean’s third Tuva Moodyson novel, Black River I was thrilled. I have been a fan of his two previous instalments ‘Dark Pines’ and ‘Red Snow’, I enjoyed the refreshing character of Tuva a deaf journalist with a thirst for investigation, who has a complex background steeped with family trauma which impacts her ability to form and sustain relationships all set against the backdrop of Gavrik, with its small town mentality and cast of reoccurring ‘interesting’ characters.

I decided the best place to read Dark Water would be a cabin in the middle of the woods just on the outskirts of Stratford Upon Avon as I like to live life on the edge – Luckily I still managed to get some sleep! I hoovered it up in 24 hours, I love it when a book takes hold of you, I found the writing addictive and I struggled to put the book down, wanting desperately to find out what had happened to Tammy and whether Tuva would reach her friend in time.

Black River Synopsis.

Tuva’s been living clean in southern Sweden for four months when she receives horrifying news. Her best friend Tammy Yamnim has gone missing.


Racing back to Gavrik at the height of Midsommar, Tuva fears for Tammy’s life. Who has taken her, and why? And who is sabotaging the small-town search efforts?


Surrounded by dark pine forest, the sinister residents of Snake River are suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, they also hold all the answers. On the shortest night of the year, Tuva must fight to save her friend. The only question is who will be there to save Tuva?

My Thoughts.

Black River picks up several months after Red Snow finishes up, Tuva has moved away from Gavrik and is enduring a sober lifestyle in Southern Sweden, she is not really living merely going through the motions of life. When she receives the news that her best friend Tammy has gone missing, Tuva races back to the town she names ‘Toy Town’ to her old boss, Lena, they both hatch a plan to start searching for Tammy. When another young woman goes missing, the hunt escalates with the town and police now getting behind the search in the hope of finding the two women before it is too late.

The third instalment in Tuva’s story, I don’t think that it puts you at any disadvantage if you haven’t read ‘Dark Pines’ or ‘Red Snow’, I mean immediately go and rectify this by picking them both up! However, if you haven’t read either, Will Dean gives the reader insight into Tuva’s past and the previous cases throughout, old friends are revisited and introduced with a snippet of backstory, therefore ‘Black River’ does work well as a standalone.

I found Black River to be a slow burner, the pace definitely picks up around half way through as Tuva begins to feel more and more uneasy about her friends disappearance, however for me the book focused more on the details of the characters and Tuva developing new relationships while coming to terms with the past year and searching for her missing friend.

What continues to stand out in Will Dean’s writing is his ability to create “interesting” characters, Black River is full of them; Sally ‘The Breeder’ Sandberg, the container building cousins, the troll making sisters even make an appearance – I do love these two, in all their weird and wonderful glory. While the characters he creates are not meant to be likeable, you cannot help but like them – Sally ‘The Breeder’ Sandberg is one I would definitely like Will to revisit in the future, there is definite scope for her to have her own story. Tuva, herself is a great character, she has depth and it is refreshing to see a lead character with a disability in a book, it’s not rare but still in 2020 it isn’t common. I feel that Tuva hasn’t revealed herself fully to the reader as yet, there are more layers to her than Will Dean has yet to uncover.

Along with his characterisation, Will Dean also utilities his knowledge of the environment around, this time Summer takes centre stage he uses this to his advantage, the stifling heat, the midges, horse fly’s all add to the claustrophobic and urgent nature of the story as Tuva navigates herself around the locals getting ready for Midsommer.

We also see the realities of living in a small town (well, any town really) in that Will Dean touches racism, using the Brexit landscape of Europe within Black River, by highlighting how differently the townsfolks treat the disappearance of Tammy to that of Lisa Svensson, something which angers Tuva and puts even more of a wedge between her and ‘Toy Town’.

I am really intrigued to see where Will Dean is going to go next, the ending of Black River was rather open ended, will Tuva return to Malmo, will her relationship with Noora continue, and how will her friendships repair themselves. Whatever direction Tuva is going to be heading in, I will definitely be following her.

Thank you to Margot Weale at Oneworld Publications for sending me an advance reading copy, Black River is published on Thursday 12th March.

One thought on “Review: Black River by Will Dean.

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