Like her previous novel, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins’ latest mystery weaves its story from multiple perspectives, fleshing out the curious deaths of two linked people within weeks of each other, both at a local suicide hot spot nicknamed The Drowning Pool.
The use of five narrators in the audiobook adaptation separates out the different viewpoints with clarity and drives home the unique traits of each individual in this thickly-populated story. The marvellous Imogen Church, Doctor Who’s Sophie Aldred, Daniel Weyman, Rachel Bavidge and Laura Aikman keep our attention and curiosity burning despite the largely unlikeable characters.
It opens with the death of unpopular newcomer to Beckford, UK, Nell Abbott. She’s found in the water of a popular picnic cove that runs off the Beckford River; a spot with a history of murder and suicides dating back to the drowning of witches hundreds of years ago. A steep cliff face and shallow waters have combined to give the area a dark history.
Nell had been drafting a book, offering fictionalised accounts of the actual deaths at The Drowning Pool, both historical and more recent. It was a deeply despised idea that the townsfolk were against. Already an outsider, her persistence with researching and writing the book had been making Nell increasingly unpopular.
Nell’s death leaves behind her rebellious teenage daughter, Lena, who is still grieving for the loss of her best friend, Katie, only weeks earlier at the same spot. Placed under the care of her estranged aunt, Jules, it soon becomes evident that there was more going on under the surface of Nell and Katie’s lives. With resistance from the local police but some help from the new Detective Sergeant, Erin Morgan, the family duo begin to question if the two deaths were, in fact, murders.
From violent past boyfriends, to misogynistic old men, an interfering psychic busybody, and Katie’s wimpy brother Josh, there are only a few moments of likeability to be found amongst the people of Beckford. Their personal agendas drive the story forward however, and the stellar narrators make them real. Into the Water is not as tense as The Girl on the Train. This book is more a mystery than a thriller, and a character study of those within a defined community. The ending offers the expected twists that you won’t see coming, but it doesn’t tie up all the loose ends clearly and the tension is not as high nor as impactful as the previous novel.
What continues to surprise me the most about multi-cast audiobooks is the lack of direction given to the performers in how to present the characters. There is a lack of continuity, allowing each narrator to put their own slant on each character for the chapters they read, whether it be a character’s accent, tone or mood. The reading of Into the Water suffers from this lack of direction but no more than other multi-cast audiobooks – although it’s perhaps more noticeable here because of the large number of characters and readers. Multi-cast narrations are still quite effective however, and do make so many perspectives easier to follow.
Into the Water may not be as good as The Girl on the Train but it’s still a worthwhile mystery that unfolds in Paula Hawkins highly enjoyable and unique style. It was released through Audible by Random House Audiobooks in May 2017 and runs approximately 11 hours and 31 minutes.
This review was first published on 15 May 2017 for Glam Adelaide.