BOOK REVIEW: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Title: Into the Water

Author: Paula Hawkins

Book Length: 386 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Contemporary

Read Start Date: November 14, 2022

Read Finish Date: December 8, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

My Review:

Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.”

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, page 83

I really enjoyed The Girl on the Train by the same author (you can see my review here), so I thought that I’d like this one just as much. I was rather disappointed. While there was certainly mystery and thriller aspects, there was just too many POVs.

In order of first appearance:

Jules: The sister of Nel Abbott, the woman who was killed and found dead of drowning in the river under suspicious circumstances. We also see the storyline of Jules when she is a teenager. Something horrible happens to her for which she blames Nel. At the time of Nel’s death, they haven’t spoken in years.

Josh: The brother of the teenage girl, Katie, who committed suicide, by drowning herself in the river. Josh and Lena share a horrible secret, one which isn’t revealed until later in the book.

Nickie: the town “weirdo” who claims that she can hear the dead speaking to her. Nickie is being told by her dead sister, Jeanie (who used to be a police officer) that something isn’t right with Patrick Townsend.

Lena: The daughter of Nel Abbott. She was best friends with Katie and is completely devastated to have lost both her mother and best friend in short order. Lena is convinced that her mother killed herself, but we don’t find out until later why she is so convinced of this fact. Lena hates Jules because even though Nel called and called over the years, Jules never once returned the call.

Mark: The high school teacher of Lena and Katie. There is a twist to the story involving this character later on in the book.

Louise: The mother of Katie and Josh. Is she a suspect or just a grieving mother?

Erin: a police officer assigned to the case of the death of Nel Abbott.

Patrick: A former police officer and father to Sean. His wife was also found in the river back when his son was a young child. I hated Patrick from the start. He is a real a**hole and that is putting it mildly. I suspected that he killed Nel and his wife from the beginning of the book. Trigger warning here for animal abuse.

Helen: School teacher and wife of Sean. I didn’t really like Helen. There was something weird going on between her and Patrick, almost like a perverted father-daughter relationship. Sean had been unfaithful to Helen and they were having a rough time. They used to live together in the cottage on the main property, but Helen moved into the main house with Patrick when she learned of the infidelity.

Sean: a police officer assigned to work the Nel Abbott case with Erin. He is the son of Patrick and the husband of Helen. We don’t know until later the identity of the woman he was having an affair with, but it changes everything.

In my opinion, having 10 POVs is way too much! Some of the chapters were written in the third person, some in the first person. It took me a while to get into the story because of it.

In the middle of reading the book, my daughter was sent to the hospital for severe bronchitis and I had to stay overnight with her for more than a week. I tried to read this book while at the hospital, but honestly, I was just in the wrong headspace for something so dense and difficult. I had to put it down and read something lighter.

It’s not that it’s a bad book, but I think that it could have been better. I knew who the killer was from the very beginning, so it wasn’t really a mystery to me–it was more about reading to see how the police figured it out.

As of writing this review, this book has a rating of 3.59 on Goodreads with more than 350,000 ratings. My 3 rating is therefore not far from the average opinion. If you are looking for the next best read to start 2023 off right, I might bump this book a little further down the list.

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Title: The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins

Book Length: 316 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary

Read Start Date: November 7, 2022

Read Finish Date: November 13, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

My Review: The book tells the story from 3 POVs:

Rachel is having a hard time of it. Spiraling downward, she has lost her husband, her job, and many times her dignity (she often gets blackout drunk and does things she regrets in the morning). Fooling her roommate into believing she still has a job, Rachel takes the train each morning into London, drink in hand. Every morning she passes by the house that used to be hers — the one that her husband now lives in with his new wife and baby girl. A few doors down lives another couple, whom Rachel watches through the train window, creating a perfect life for them in her mind.

One day, this perfect image is shattered when sees the wife cheating on the husband with another man. Shorty thereafter, the wife goes missing and is feared dead. What happened to her? Was it the man Rachel saw her with? Did the husband find out and kill her in a jealous rage? Rachel was there that night–the night that Megan went missing–but she was drunk and doesn’t remember a thing.

Rachel becomes obsessed with trying to solve the mystery, as she is convinced she knows more than she remembers.

Megan: The story of Megan is told in the past and leads up to the circumstances surrounding why she goes missing. Something horrific happens in her past (I won’t spoil it), but it left me bereft for days afterward.

Lastly, the story of Anne, Rachel’s ex’s new wife. Anne views Rachel much like everyone else — a drunk, a nuisance, crazy. Rachel is constantly leaving messages for Tom (the husband) and Anne is becoming fed up. I wasn’t too crazy about Anne’s POV and it didn’t add that much to the story until the ending when it all came together.

Down the Rabbit Hole sums it up best: “The characters in this book were all so frustratingly imperfect. Each time I wish they would make some good decisions, but they wouldn’t. I think all in all that speaks to the author’s prowess at creating these characters that you can’t help but root for, or at least wish the best, and then have that all crumbling down around you all the time. It truly made for a frustrating yet impressive experience of impending dread.”

I love Paula Hawkins’s writing. Both its imagery and the mystery aspect. The ending had a big twist that I did not see coming and it tied the whole story into a neat little bow. Although Rachel’s actions are cringe worthy sometimes, she is a sympathetic character. She has been done wrong — and by the end it is clear why she is (justifiably) a mess.

I would definitely recommend this book.

As a last point, I would like to share a couple of quotes that I took note of:

My heart breaks for Rachel here in this moment.

I liked my job, but I didn’t have a glittering career, and even if I had, let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things — their looks and their role as mothers. I’m not beautiful, and I can’t have kids, so what does that make me? Worthless.

The Girl on the Train page 85

The below quote as a really awesome element of foreshadowing in it, that you don’t pick up until much later in the book. It’s just really fantastic, actually, when I think about it.

Blackouts happen, and it isn’t just a matter of being a bit hazy about getting home from the club or forgetting what it was that was so funny when you were chatting in the pub. It’s different. Total black; hours lost, never to be retrieved.

Tom bought me a book about it. Not very romantic, but he was tired of listening to me tell him how sorry I was in the morning when I didn’t even know what I was sorry for. I think he wanted me to see the damage I was doing, the kind of things I might be capable of. It was written by a doctor, but I’ve no idea whether it was accurate: the author claimed that blacking out wasn’t simply a matter of forgetting what had happened, but having no memories to forget in the first place. His theory was that you get into a state where your brain no longer makes short-term memories. And while you’re there, in deepest black, you don’t behave as you usually would, because you’re simply reacting to the very last thing that you think happened, because — since you aren’t making memories — you might not actually know what the last thing that happened really was.”

The Girl on the Train page 74