I have mixed feelings about Into The Water. On the one hand, I love the whodunnit-wait-can-someone-tell-me-what’s-going on-OMG-I didn’t-see-that-coming side of the story. On the other hand, I hate everyone in it.
Like, seriously, I hate every single character in Into The Water. But hey, that’s just me.
The good thing, however, is that as with Paula Hawkins’ phenomenally successful debut novel, The Girl On The Train (2016), you don’t have to like the protagonist – gosh, that Rachel Watson on the train was particularly painful to like – or the other characters to enjoy a thrilling read.
In Into The Water, Hawkins repeats the formula she used in The Girl On The Train, using different perspectives to narrate the story, with all the character’s lives intertwining in one way or another.
However, while there are only three narrators in her first novel, Hawkins introduces 11 storytellers in this book.
Yes, 11, and yes, it gets confusing. There isn’t much time to get to know the characters individually because Hawkins rushes through the introductions. I had to keep referring to the earlier pages to keep track of what these characters reveal and why they might have a reason to want Nel Abbott dead.
Nel is the town weirdo, drawn to water and deeply fascinated by death by drowning, and also a particular pool in the town of Beckford where she resided with her teenage daughter Lena.
The Beckford pool has another dead giveaway nickname – the Drowning Pool, and it is there that Nel’s lifeless body is found. All signs point to suicide.
A few weeks prior to Nel’s death, Lena’s friend Katie committed suicide by drowning in the same pool. However, these aren’t the only lives consumed by the Drowning Pool. There have been many casualties, and Nel died before she could publish her book in which she documented those untimely deaths, as well as other unconfirmed stories about the pool.
Jules, the estranged younger sister, then gets into the picture, and deep in her gut, she knows that as eccentric and kooky as Nel was when she was alive, there is no way she would have thrown herself off a cliff to end her life.
To be fair, Into The Water is an interesting read. I really wanted to know just what the heck happened and why Nel is suddenly dead.
The narrative, though, could really do with fewer perspectives. Nickie the town psychic, Katie’s brother Josh, and Erin the detective are three characters whose narratives are simply a waste of words. I skipped their parts and still was able to put things together and not lose the, at times somewhat shaky, plot.
I am glad that I didn’t have high expectations of Hawkins’ second novel, simply because I figured that the hype surrounding the release was just that – hype.
Nevertheless, I do admire the way Hawkins manoeuvres the readers through this complicated storyline and takes us to the very final page before revealing what exactly happened to Nel.
I swear, I thought that the mystery would not be solved and that Hawkins deliberately omitted the revelation because she wanted readers to come up with their own conclusion. I would have torn the book to bits if that was the case.
But, boy, was I wrong. It is an ending that no one (OK, very few people) would see coming because Hawkins doesn’t drop a single hint regarding the circumstances behind Nel’s death earlier in the book.
This is not a mystery where you will find clues in the 11 narratives and solve the mystery yourself. This is Hawkins controlling the story and giving you a take it or leave it ending.
The 353 pages may be a drag to read, but it is the last Hitchcockian line that blows Hawkins’ debut novel out of the water. And just for that reason, I think Into The Water is definitely worth a read.
Into The Water
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Doubleday, murder mystery