I was really excited to read Into the Water when it came out earlier this year. After all, I was an early fan of Hawkins’ previous work – The Girl on the Train. So even though Into the Water was retailing for an astronomical price here in India, I went ahead and bought it, and devoured it right away.
In a village in England, there are an extremely high number of deaths by suicide – women jumping into the water to kill themselves. When a single mother is the latest casualty, her sister has to return to the village to take care of her niece, and ends up facing a lot of demons from her past.
I was pleasantly surprised when I started this one. The novel opens with a single mother Danielle (Nel) found dead at the bottom of The Drowning Pool, supposedly committed suicide by drowning.
A teenage girl died earlier that summer in just the same way – just like many other women over the course of history.
Nel’s sister comes home for the funeral and to take charge of her niece. However, she’s battling her own demons. Her grief and guilt over her sister’s death, her traumatic childhood, and her niece’s suspicious behavior all make for a very unpleasant visit to her hometown.
In spite of the suicide verdict, investigations into the murder are on.
All these goings-on are observed and narrated by a number of people in the village who are connected to the investigation. A total of nine narrators drive this story forward.
There have been many reviews floating around the web about this multi-pronged approach to telling the story. Most of the reviews have been negative, and that nine narrators is way too much. I didn’t have a problem with that though. Even with the number of voices in the book, the narrative was straight-forward and easy to follow.
Where I did have an issue was the unraveling of the plot earlier than anticipated. Three-fourths of the way in, I could easily guess not just the killer, but also the twist in the end. This led to a very anti-climatic end, and while I enjoyed most of the book, the ending really let it down for me.
With so many characters populating the tale, and with so many possible red herrings, it seems unforgivable that the cat was let out of the bag so early in the plot.
I also didn’t find any of the characters appealing, and read the book without caring too much about the fate of the characters in the book.
Still, in spite of these issues, I found myself liking the book. Hawkins’ unique story-telling techniques, and the slow unraveling of the secrets of the townspeople was compelling enough to keep me reading through the night.
Overall, recommend it, but with caveats. It’s not a book if you are looking for suspense and thrills along the lines of The Girl on the Train, but still it is a pretty good book in its own way. Read it without preconceived notions about what a thriller should be like, and I think you will like this book.
You can also buy a copy of this book from Amazon.