Into the Water captures all the suspense and terrifying emotions of the first, but it beams with a maturity in writing and in storytelling that will draw her fans right back over the edge ... Hawkins’ tale is told through so many sets of eyes that it’s sometimes hard to keep the playlist straight ... But the novel also flows with an instinctual understanding of relationships, young love, devoted friendships and dedication to duty, familial faults and small-town paranoia. Every character is believable. The actions seem right and real, even when you don’t see them coming.
It’s a set-up that is redolent with possibility. But that promising start fails to deliver, and the main reason is structural. The story of Into the Water is carried by 11 narrative voices. To differentiate 11 separate voices within a single story is a fiendishly difficult thing. And these characters are so similar in tone and register – even when some are in first person and others in third – that they are almost impossible to tell apart, which ends up being both monotonous and confusing ... The second novel is a notorious challenge to a writer. Hawkins had a mountain to climb after the success of The Girl on the Train and no doubt the sales of her second thriller will be massive. I suspect her readers’ enjoyment may be less so.
Into the Water isn’t an impressive book. Its tone is uniformly lugubrious and maudlin, and Hawkins’ characters seldom rise to the level of two dimensions, let alone three. Their depth is telegraphed by the way they brood over their failings while staring into the dark waters, and they seem to be constantly exclaiming, 'You don’t understand what I’ve done!' Hawkins makes liberal use of coy suspense-building devices, such as having people think in vague terms about an important event or object without describing it clearly enough to give away later plot developments. Yet few readers will have difficulty figuring out who’s guilty of what well before Hawkins delivers the obligatory twists.