Into The Water by Paula Hawkins Doubleday, £20
Since the publication of runaway success The Girl On The Train in 2015 Paula Hawkins has been living every author’s dream. Her story of divorcee Rachel, an alcoholic who inveigled her way into the lives of the troubled couples she saw from her commuter train, one of them her ex-husband and his new wife, has sold more than 18 million copies worldwide and been made into a glossy Hollywood film starring Emily Blunt.
But Hawkins’ delight must surely have been tempered by the nagging question: “How do I follow this?” If so, you would never know it from her new thriller Into The Water, a more confident, ambitious and intriguing read than The Girl On The Train.
The story opens with Jules Abbott resentfully returning to her home town of Beckford following the death of her estranged sister Nel. Nel was writing a book about Beckford’s Drowning Pool, a beauty spot that over the centuries has been a magnet for suicidal women. The police are treating Nel’s death as another suicide but Jules knows that Nel would never have jumped into the Drowning Pool.
And when she discovers their estrangement was based on a terrible misunderstanding, she is determined to find out what really happened to her sister. Jules also finds herself responsible for Nel’s troubled teenage daughter Lena who is coming to terms with her best friend Katie’s suicide in the Drowning Pool.
As the story unfolds it seems that everyone in the village, from the detective on the case to staff at Lena and Katie’s local school, has something to hide. Hawkins is painting a broader canvas than in The Girl On The Train with 15 characters giving their side of the story. Even when these characters tell the truth, it’s their truth, one that can’t always be taken at face value and we realise that this applies to Jules as much as anyone.
Though broadly the characters are well drawn, the size of the cast is slightly alienating. And most of them…