Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train, writes another fast-paced mystery novel. This is the kind of book that you power through in a day because you cannot put it down – perfect for a lazy Sunday. Or in my case, the last day of furlough. (Hurray, I get to go back to work!)
Jules Abbott returns to her family summer home when her estranged sister Nel, suddenly dies, leaving a 15 year old daughter, Lena, behind. When she arrives, Jules learns that Lena’s best friend, Katie, had committed suicide months prior and Nel’s death might be connected. All of the locals seem happy Nel died because she was writing a book on “the drowning pool,” a part of the river in town, and the many women over the years who died there either by suicide or murder, including Katie. The investigation into Nel’s death ends up revealing the circumstances around Katie’s suicide and the death of another woman back in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, Jules confronts her past childhood traumas and reevaluates the reason for her estrangement with her sister. Katie’s family is still grieving and learning to move forward with their lives. The local detective is forced to reflect on his mother’s death in the drowning pool while investing Nel’s and dealing with his fractured family life.
I thought Hawkins did a good job balancing the time spent developing all these characters’ motives and emotional reactions versus that on moving the plot forward with action and clues. I liked that in this story there are ton of bad actors, but only a couple that you feel like are overall bad people. It made the story seem more realistic and nuanced.
I was able to guess the “who” and most of the “why” of the various intrigues, but I didn’t predict any of the “hows.” I enjoy mysteries like this one that let me guess right, or almost right, near the end. I’d rather have that than be completely surprised on all accounts, if only for the petty fact that it’s nice to feel smart! Haha. If you like super complicated mysteries with a ton of clues that are impossibly to solve and must be explained at the end, then this book will probably disappoint you. Instead, this is a story that starts blurry and slowly becomes focused as you learn more facts and personal histories.
Hawkins’ writing style, or at least genre and vibe, remind me of Gillian Flynn in Gone Girl, so I highly recommend her if you like Flynn. I previously read Hawkins’ book The Girl on the Train and I appreciated how completely different this mystery was from that one, although the vibe and pace are very similar. The two books are not related at all, so no need to read in order. I also like that Hawkins’ novels are solidly mysteries without any leaning towards horror, because I’m not a huge fan of “scary” books (or movies for that matter).
In short, I suggest that everyone quick pick up this book before the next snowstorm. You’ll want to binge on it all day and it will help you forget how miserable it is outside.
(Trigger warning: there is a short, but important to the plot, rape scene, although it is not graphic.)