We are living in an age of razor-sharp female thriller writers. While the craze of 'domestic thrillers' may have opened the door to this genre of writing, it has evolved and settled into a publishing landscape where gripping, intelligent, female-driven stories spell commercial gold. The successful female thriller - Girl on a Train, Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive etc - has become imbued with an almost mythical quality. Readers find the book through Amazon or word of mouth, read it and go, yes! I want to read more just like that.
So when Paula Hawkins hit the scene with Girl on a Train, we wanted more of her particular brand of thriller. It was dark, vulnerable, relatable and raw. We felt trapped with the protagonist inside her tortured mind. In her much-anticipated follow-up, things have got a bit more crowded.
There are 11 narrators in Into the Water. Eleven. While the premise of the book is compelling and the opening scenes are striking, the sheer chorus of voices threw me as a reader. I almost put the book down early on, just because I was finding it all too confusing. However, once I got used to it, every narrator held their own possibilities and added to the suspense.
Hawkins is an incredible writer, and early on her compelling turn of phrase pulled me through the story. Her language around water and the difficult women it attracted was magical and evocative. The plot itself was fantastic (I truly didn't guess the killer until near the end). A family secret is exposed that cut me to the bone and was truly heartbreaking. It was great, but not my thriller of the year.
It's like being at a fabulous dinner party with a table crowded with fascinating people, all competing for attention. It's impossible to get to know anyone very well. The closeness and character development Hawkins achieved in her first book just isn't possible. Into the Water has its own merits and is an enjoyable read, those looking for something 'like Girl on the Train' will be disappointed.