Into the Water Review - No More Swimming for Me
by Paula Hawkins
Published in 2017
Paula Hawkins is most popularly known for her book, The Girl on the Train, but she does it again with another psychological thriller. Whenever I see a book of hers, I have to grab because I know it will always have some kind of crazy twist at the end that I will never see coming and she once again does not disappoint. She had me thinking maybe I won’t be going for a swim anytime soon when I read Into the Water.
Into the Water begins with a dead body found in the town river of Beckford belonging to Nel Abbott. This draws her estranged sister, Jules, to come back to her childhood town to help take care of Nel’s daughter, Lena. While Lena assumes it was a suicide, Jules think it was murder due to the fact that Nel had managed to make several enemies within the town. Jules finds a journal of Nel’s where she seems to have been investigating multiple deaths from the “drowning pool”, where it got its name due to the numerous women who were found dead in this river including Lena’s best friend, Kate, and Police Officer Sean’s mother.
There are flashbacks for Jules as we discover why she left this town and why she and her sister have barely spoken since they were teenagers. Nel was always the popular one while Jules was considered the overweight “ugly” sister who had to live in her older sister’s shadow. One day at home, when Nel invites her boyfriend over, she falls asleep and her boyfriend rapes Jules. Jules then goes to the drowning pool, where her sister manages to rescue her before drowning, thus showing us that they have had a history with this pool for a long time and why Nel began her interest in this pool. We also learn that she was currently having an affair with Officer Sean, who is actually the one who is in charge of investigating her death.
There are also some flashbacks for Lena as we learn about her friendship with Kate. During their friendship, Kate begins having an affair with their teacher and decides she is in love with him. They find out that a young kid in the neighborhood saw them together, who told Nel, who then confronted Kate about it. After Kate was confronted with the fact that others knew their secret, she decided to kill herself to remove any evidence of the affair in order to protect the teacher. This explains why Lena kept thinking Nel’s death was a suicide since she was indirectly responsible for her best friend’s death.
Jules and Lena finally begin to get closer, understanding that they are getting closer to uncovering the truth about Nel’s death. A final showdown occurs when they discover that Officer Sean was actually the one who pushed Nel off the cliff after she discovers that his mother was killed by his father. Before Officer Sean can go down, his father decides to take the blame for both the death of his wife along with Nel in order to protect his son.
Final Rating & Thoughts: 6/10
Into the Water reminds me very much of her first book Girl on the Train in the sense that it also left me with very mixed feelings. Paula Hawkins has become best known for her crazy plot twists that get unraveled at the end. However, I feel that yes it is always a great plot twist in the end that I usually don’t see coming, but everything leading towards the end is just super scattered. It worked in Girl on the Train because it was from the narrative of a drunk so the reader had to read from that kind of point of view half the time. In Into the Water, the narrative changes from like several people’s point of view which makes it difficult to even determine who the true main character is. I also think that the way she tried to connect all the different deaths became too complex and messy as well. We were trying to solve the death of Nel, yet we also needed to solve the death of Kate, then somehow we got Officer Sean’s mother thrown in there, and then every now and then there are tidbits about a woman who was killed hundreds of years before as a witch. It just felt like there was too much going on.
I am someone who loves drama, but the drama that is added in here feels out of place with its only purpose being a possible “reason” for one of the deaths of the women of the drowning pool. I also didn’t like the ending when we found out the person who killed Officer Sean’s mom was his father the whole time. I was even more unhappy when he ended up taking the blame for Officer Sean’s murder to protect him. Even with the interesting twists and turns at the end, I just feel like I didn’t get the true ending for the characters I wished they had.
Even with negatives, overall it is not a terrible book. I love the fact that everyone seemed to have these ties to this river and the idea of a “drowning pool” where women go to die. I think it brings such an eerie and haunting vibe to Beckford that make you feel like Nel and wonder what is it about this place that attracts death. I also like the experience of reading Nel’s journal along with Jules because it at times almost seems like the rambling of a woman who has become obsessed with the drowning pool. When reading Jule’s narrative, you really begin to think someone killed her. When reading Jule’s narrative, you really think she killed herself. I found myself switching my opinion back and forth which is why I truly was so shocked that Sean killed her because I wasn’t even fully decided that it was a true murder.
I wish that Paula Hawkins remained more focused on Jules, Lena, Kate, and Nel because I think those were the most interesting parts of the book. I loved how they all seemed to have their own separate stories but were still so interconnected. I would still recommend this book because even as confusing as the plots were during the book, it all makes sense and comes together in the end in a way that just blows your mind.