Into the Water by Paula Hawkins is set in the fictional small town of Beckford, Northumberland, through which runs a river. There is a spot in the river called the Drowning Pool, which the folks of the town described as "infected by the blood and bile of persecuted women." Over the years, this bend in the river has become the graveyard for considerable number of women. And this sleepy town is home to a celebrated writer, photographer and single mom, Danielle “Nel” Abbott, and her fifteen-year-old daughter Lena. Under disturbing circumstances, Lena’s friend Katie killed herself by jumping into the pool. A few weeks after the death of Katie, Nel’s dead body was also found in the river. At the time of her death, Nel was working on a book about the Drowning Pool and had done extensive research on its history and the victims it claimed. She was convinced that something more sinister than a suicidal tendency was at work in the death of so many women in the pool. In another part of England Jules Abbot swore she'd never set foot in Beckford again, but the death of her sister, Nel, compelled her to return to the home town she fled years earlier and take charge of the niece she had never met before and find out the truth behind the mysterious death of her older sister. Jules find it difficult to believe that her sister who was writing a book on the pool and its victims would purposely kill herself there. An investigation headed by Det. Insp. Sean Townsend was also underway to probe the death of Nel. The author sets up the story nicely, pregnant with possibilities.
Unlike The Girl on the Train, Into the Water is mounted on a gigantic scale with an impressive cast. Readers who are familiar with The Girl on the Train will easily recall that the story was thinly populated, whereas, Into the Water is flooded with an eclectic cast of characters too numerous to mention. If The Girl on the Train was told from the perspective of a dishevelled and unstable narrator, Into the Water is told from a myriad of eleven perspectives. While it is certainly ambitious and extraordinary, there is every chance of the reader getting lost in confusion trying to make sense of the story in the labyrinth of narratives which constantly shifts from the first to third person. But this elaborate narration through different viewpoints with each chapter devoted to a different character will be most certainly appreciated by many readers as it added depth to the characters involved and lends credence to their roles in the story. While it would be too harsh to judge Into the Water on the scale of The Girl on the Train, this story of a small town with big secrets which explores the psychology of relationships and the unreliability of memory leaves me with the gut feeling that memory is just simply a storehouse of imagination and, sometimes, things do not appear as they really are.
If you expect another The Girl on the Train or The Girl on the Train II, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you read and judge Into the Water on its own merit, you’ve got yourself another winner from Paula Hawkins.