Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Published on May 2, 2017 by Riverhead Books
I was a big fan of the gripping, creepy, and very thrilling The Girl on the Train, and I highly recommended it as a must read. Paula Hawkins instantly went on my list as a new favorite author so when I heard Into the Water was coming out, it immediately went on my TBR list! It was even one of the many books I received as Mother’s Day gifts! Yay, books for gifts, my favorite!
Yet, I could not love this book even though I tried. I liked it. I enjoyed it. But, I didn’t love it, and I feel badly about that although I really shouldn’t. It just didn’t have the drama, the excitement, or the heart-pounding suspense I love in a thriller or expected from Hawkins after reading The Girl on the Train. It was a much more laid back and lighter suspense story if you will. I will say that Hawkins is a remarkable writer, but Into the Water was not written in the same style as her best-selling debut so if you plan to read the book, don’t have the same expectations because they are completely different even though it is being advertised everywhere that you will love Into the Water if you liked The Girl on the Train…umm, there is really no comparison between the two.
Okay, here is why Into the Water was just enjoyable for me and not a wonderful read even though the plot of multiple women drowning over the years, decades, and even centuries in the small town’s “drowning” pool is quite intriguing—what keeps drawing these women to this dark, forbidding river? Are these deaths suicides? Murders? Why was Nel Abbott the pool’s latest victim a couple of months after the drowning death of teenager Katie Whitaker, her own daughter Lena’s best friend? Are these drownings related or only a coincidence? Certainly, the storyline is fascinating, but it never kept me completely engrossed or on the edge of my seat, which is one issue I had with the book.
Another thing, the story seems much less about solving Nel’s drowning and more about the secrets and frayed relationships of the small town. Honestly, although the police are “investigating” Nel and Katie’s drownings, the whole premise is mostly about each character pointing fingers at each other, their lying, keeping secrets, and hating one another. This is supposed to be a murder mystery, but it’s written like a gossipy soap opera with a bit of witchcraft, light suspense, threats of murder, and hints of suicide thrown in for good measure. There is only a slight buildup of tension and apprehension, and the book is lacking in the psychological thrills, twists and turns that Hawkins did so outstandingly in The Girl on the Train.
Most of all, the book was really hard to get into. There were way too many characters in the book, and that bothered me since the story is told from all ten character’s POV’s. So, in the beginning, I struggled to remember who is who, who is doing and saying what, and who is connected to someone else—because trust me, everyone in the book is connected in some way and not always in a good way! This left me less able to focus on the actual mystery, so I found it frustrating. I think if Hawkins had written the story differently, it would have felt less choppy, wouldn’t have bounced all over the place, and the storyline would have flowed so much smoother. But, I know some readers will like the conversational styles of each character personally sharing their stories and secrets, and every single one of them has a secret! So, this could just be my personal pique here about the overload of crazy and not even very likable characters.
I will say that the book really picked up the pace during its second half, or maybe I finally got the characters straight in my head. Still, I would never call the book a page turner, but I was kept interested enough in what was going on to keep reading. And I really thought that I had figured out why the women kept going to the river and drowning, but I was so wrong. That made the ending rather surprising and a bit exciting although not in a punch in the gut kind of way or even in a huge twisty way as you expect/hope/want a mystery-thriller to hit you! In my opinion, Into the Water is not as good as The Girl on the Train, but I enjoyed it enough that I will read Hawkins’s next book. But, I will borrow her next novel first and not ask for it as a gift just in case!