Full props to Paula Hawkins; she knows how to craft a good mystery. Look at her debut novel, The Girl On The Train. The tale was full of dead-on despicable characters, but the compelling narrative unfolded itself into a highly enjoyable whodunit mystery of grief, lies, and murder.
Hawkins does the same with her follow-up, Into The Water. She slowly, yet methodically, unveils the mystery of why a number of women seemingly commit suicide by drowning in a lake in northwestern England, all told through the accounts and perspectives of entirely unreliable spectators. Two of these deaths, Nel and Katie, are the focus of the investigation by the local constabulary as well as by Lena, Nel’s daughter and Katie’s friend. Hawkins continues her theme of using highly-flawed, emotionally-unstable characters, but these archetypes work well in the environs of a small town where gossip is king and not all neighbors can properly balance each other’s blemishes.
Hawkins’ writing style plods more than needed this time around. Excerpts of a book written by Nel prior to her death appear within this novel with the premise of providing local back story, instead they simply draw out the tale into a unnecessarily longer read. And as with any good mystery, there are multiple reveals and feints, yet one of the larger ones comes to soon, dampening the impact of future disclosures, and slowing down the cat-and-mouse chase as Lena and her aunt, Jules, become involved deeper than intended while the police prove to be more of a groundless threat than actual help.
Into the Water makes a significant attempt at swimming above the standard genre flotsam, yet its weightiness pulls it under time and again, much like Nel and Katie, until it finally bobs ashore. By no means a disappointing read, picking up a faster current, however, would have avoided unnecessary bailing.