AUTHOR: Paula Hawkins
TYPE: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Purchase @ AMAZON
REVIEWER: Pistol Annie
RATING: 3 Stars
A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from — a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
Beware of a calm surface — you never know what lies beneath.
After her gangbuster release with The Girl on the Train (GOTT), Paula Hawkins is back again delivering her second riveting psychological suspense. But hang on a minute! All that hype that tries to convince you that “if you liked GOTT, then you’re sure to love Into the Water (ITW),” isn’t true in my opinion. There are many differences. Most notable is the overload of some ten or more points of view. A few of them just seemed unnecessary – even foolish filler. As far as I was concerned, they added no real value to the story, except for being an annoyance and maybe pitching the intrigue without ever finding a fit. If you thought Rachel and the cast in GOTT were bad, you’ll be in for a whole other kettle of fish with this demented, despicable and smelly gathering. They are truly a messed-up bunch with no hope for redemption. After all is said and done, the main difference I found was in the mystery itself. It just didn’t pack the punch or carry the same heightened sense of suspense or psychological thrill as its predecessor.
Another annoying tidbit is the possible need for a character chart to track the lengthy list of characters, along with a map to find your way through the maze. ITW is not an easy book to maneuver. I’m a fast reader, but I don’t skim, and this tale took me over 10 days to finish because, quite frankly, it wore me out. Far too many threads and multiple timelines invade, both past and present, making it difficult to comfortably follow the back and forth changes for all the different characters.
The author’s writing is still phenomenal, the vivid wording and descriptive language are both meticulous in creating a scene or mood, and her talent is apparent. But the mysterious wow factor fizzled, and I was left unmoved by a ho-hum ending. While I couldn’t step away from GOTT, the opposite is true for ITW because I could hardly stay with it for more than a couple hours at a time.
Murder, suicide or accident?
Beckworth is a river town, and its cache of secrets was the biggest hook for me. You know what they say about curiosity killing the cat. Here’s a typical small town where everybody knows everything and everybody is in everyone’s business. At least what they think — in reality, they don’t have a clue. Where GOTT used the train, here the symbolism lies with the water and its effect on these people. Through the years, the Drowning Pool, as the river is called, has claimed the lives of many young female victims. With the latest victim, a beautiful young mother, the plot thickens and the investigation begins into the ties that bind the latest victim to her friends and neighbors. While some people are relieved by Nel’s death, others are grief-stricken, or so it seems. As the circle draws closer, more secrets are revealed. Everyone is suspect.
Nel Abbott died leaving behind a young daughter, Lena, and an unfinished manuscript she was writing containing secrets about the river and the dead women who died there. It’s those secrets that have some of the good citizens of Beckworth up in arms over its publication. Determined never to return to the place where an ugly past collides with the present, Jules Abbott, Nel’s sister and Lena’s only living relative, arrives to take care of her orphaned niece, who she’s never met. The relationship between the sisters had remained strained for years, and apparently history was repeating itself with Lena, because things between aunt and niece were no picnic either. Lena’s best friend had been a victim of the Drowning Pool only a few months prior to her mother’s death. Were the deaths related?
Mill House, sitting beside the dark and forbidding river, had been Nel’s home her entire life. Her childhood memories were filled with its secrets, mysteries and witchcraft. She had always been pulled into the stories of the troublesome women found dead in the Drowning Pool — even the story of a young girl branded as a witch in the seventeenth century. Did this obsession have anything to do with her death?
The saga is told in alternating points of view that become confusing at times. I enjoyed Lena’s perspective the most — and I’m guessing that most readers will, as well. From a simmering slow build to revelation after revelation — some shocking and others you’ll have most likely figured out, I’ll admit that I found ITW to be a complex thriller with a sinister feel throughout. It is set in Great Britain, with carefully drawn characters who are deeply flawed, along with a huge dose of crazy and creepy. Is there a serial killer, more than one monster, or a mixture through the years? Are there links between present day deaths to those of centuries ago? Does witchcraft still thrive in their small town? Why only female victims? On a positive note, the author plays her cards close to the vest that keeps the intrigue flowing. She doesn’t solve this mystery until almost the last page and it wasn’t what I was expecting, nor did it send me rocketing into fits of amazement.
By the time I reached the end, I found myself straddling the center of the rating chart. Wasn’t blown away by its greatness, but I didn’t throw a fit or shout bad words in disgust. No chance for a re-read by this girl though. If you’re expecting another thrill ride like that found in GOTT, you might be sadly disappointed.