Paula Hawkins, Into the Water, 2017
Into the Water marks Paula Hawkins’ second release, after the hugely successful The Girl on the Train, and follows in a similar theme, and with similar traits (possibly untrustworthy narrator, a plethora of characters, sequential chapters). Into the Water follows the suicide of Nel Abbott, a woman fixated on the sea and who was writing a book about all the suicides from the same spot, and all water-based deaths dating back to the 17th century with witch trials. While her daughter, Lena, accepts her suicide, this coming only a few months after Lena’s best friend, Katie, also committed suicide in the same fashion), her estranged sister, Jules, is not convinced. What unravels is a series of lies, secrets and the reviewing of historical deaths, all leading up to Nel’s apparent suicide.
One of the first major downsides I had about this novel was Hawkins’ vast array of characters. While they all helped shape the town, there were times when it was hard recalling who was which character and connected with who else, and at times seeing a person confessing or finding out something was easily lost with the short chapters instantly leading into someone else. Not including passages from Nel’s book, or historical chapters, there are at least nine characters in the present day each with a large amount of time in the book. However, as mentioned before, by the end having a vast array of characters not only helps with having more suspects, but it helps the whole investigation into Nel’s death, Katie’s death and those from the past.
Another downside is aimed at Hawkins’ writing. The third-person narration chapters were fine, but each character whose chapter was presented in first-person sounded the same. Only a few times did one swear or say something that was not common. And, much like with The Girl on the Train, Hawkins’ secrets are often guessable. While the villain of this novel was a nice surprise (more on that in a bit), there were often major hints (Lena not knowing her father but we’re presented with a sexual partner of her mother in the past and the affairs of characters, for example) that meant the ultimate reveal of these secrets were not shocking or unexpected as it seemed destined for them to happen.
One mystery Hawkins keeps hidden beautifully is the villain of the novel. Every 50 pages or so I was convinced it was a different character and this mystery is left unknown right up until the final chapter of the book (after I’d guessed who I believed was the overall villain, for the sixth time), and after finding out the villain it made me appreciate her work a lot more (prior to his admittance I was aiming this novel at a 6, but just because it was so beautifully done it deserves more). Her writing is also clear and concise the whole way through (even if all the town’s characters sound the same) and it flows easy to read.
Into the Water is a well-worked novel with an array of interesting characters, many end the novel in complete contrast to their beginnings (with some, including Lena, initially coming across as unpleasant), and this is a compliment to her writing. Her characters felt real and believable, and different enough from each other. Overall it is a thriller well worth a read (not quite as good as the Girl on the Train, even if we shouldn’t compare the two) and showing why Hawkins has a bright future in the business.
*Buy it on Amazon here*
Other works by Paula Hawkins:
The Girl on the Train