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.
Hawkins' sophomore effort disappoints on all counts. Like a washing machine stuck in spin cycle, without the sudsy emotion that would give it pulp appeal, Into the Water goes over and over the same ground for nearly 400 pages, tossing its large cast of narrators together to confusing effect ... For all of the book's eerie trappings, Hawkins fails to capture the dark powers the Drowning Pool is said to have. Like many other elements in this overcooked, underachieving novel, it's one-dimensional.
The facts behind all these intrigues are teased out with impressive skill by Ms. Hawkins, who tells a complex narrative in mostly brief chapters through the eyes and voices of more than a dozen characters ... Keeping track of all these characters can at times be daunting. But the effort proves worthwhile in a chronicle whose final pages yield startling revelations—despite the puzzlement of the policeman in charge.
...something’s amiss in this second novel: It’s stagnant rather than suspenseful. The Girl On The Train may have rumbled back and forth on the same train tracks twice a day, but at least it moved; as a thriller, Into The Water is stuck in the mud ... Into The Water is a dull disappointment of a thriller; one good flush would put everybody — characters and readers alike — out of their misery.
The book’s piled-on storylines lack the feverish, almost subdermal intimacy of Train, and Hawkins’ pulp psychology has only the soggiest sort of logic. Still, buried in her humid narrative is an intriguing pop-feminist tale of small-town hypocrisy, sexual politics, and wrongs that won’t rinse clean.
the characters — so multitudinous and so lacking in personality or dimension — are just plain stingy with what they know, rather than deluded or self-justifying. Taken together, they provide a welter of incomplete information and withheld knowledge ... This is an unfortunate follow-up to The Girl on the Train and, we are hoping, an aberration.
If The Girl on the Train seemed overplotted and confusing to some readers, it is a model of clarity next to this latest effort ... Her goal may be to build suspense, but all she achieves is confusion. Into the Water is jam-packed with minor characters and stories that go nowhere ... Hawkins does not so much introduce these characters as throw them at the reader in rapid succession. There’s no time to process who’s who, and not much detail about any of them.
The much-anticipated Into the Water also employs the device of dislocating the reader with conflicting information and revisits some of the themes central to The Girl on the Train — memory, self-delusion, perception — but it can’t precisely be classified as a mystery novel ... There’s a lot to keep track of, a number of mysterious deaths and non-lethal secrets, and the way Hawkins handles her reveals varies: some are overt and declarative, some casually unveiled as incidental asides, and some are left entirely unwritten...ultra-short chapters result in a fast pace, but switching points of view so quickly, and seemingly arbitrarily...tone is also uneven ...the final showdown deflates in beige shades of cranky exhaustion ...this book will be less of a crowd-pleaser than her previous thriller.
If a sharply written and swiftly paced final chapter with a startling reveal compensates for the time you spend reading a cluttered, slow-moving thriller, you may walk away satisfied with Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water ... Against these unevenly drawn characters, Erin Morgan, an inspector transferred from London to the village, stands out for her force, candor and keen eye ... Hawkins tells the story from rotating points of view, a popular narrative structure in thrillers that’s wearing thin. The idea, of course, is for the characters to undercut each other’s stories so the reader can’t tell who is trustworthy ... The reader soon begins to feel he’s in a long holding pattern ... There’s a mastery of storytelling here that leaves you hoping that Hawkins gets back on the mark next time out.
The problem with Into the Water is that, although it's creepy from the get-go, it's not the propulsive page-turner that The Girl on the Train was. It's a slow starter. Glacially slow. Hawkins eventually gets it into gear, dropping bombshell after bombshell, chapter after chapter. But it takes her more than 200 pages. If she didn't have such stellar credentials, maybe her publisher would have insisted on revisions to a sluggish opening. It would be a much better book if, instead of dipping a tentative toe in the water, Hawkins had just jumped right into the deep end.
There is nothing wrong with this formula—if only Hawkins managed to execute it well. So far, her books are centered on interesting premises, but gauche writing and inconsistent character development prevents them from being effective ... there are more than ten narrative voices spread across short chapters. They are all so similar in tone and style that the book becomes extremely monotonous and confusing by the time we reach the halfway point. The reader is left to sort out the mess of who everyone is and the muddled relationships among them ... By the end of the book, I couldn’t care less about who got killed and who committed suicide.
...although the novel is generally entertaining and sometimes strikingly insightful, at times the tangle of narrators, characters and plotlines can be confusing ... Into the Water is a moderately successful mystery that offers a sometimes intriguing portrait of the interconnectedness of small-town life. At times, its seems needlessly complicated with characters and plotlines, as if Hawkins were trying to juggle too many balls at once.
This is a field well-cultivated by masterful writers such as Elizabeth George and the late P.D. James, and the quality of Ms. Hawkins’ psychological suspense puts her right up there with them. In fact, in some ways she surpasses these older novelists ... Numerous other perspectives, usually conflicting, become a box of fascinating puzzle pieces to assemble ... It will make a lushly gorgeous movie, but is unlikely to capture the wealth of Ms. Hawkins nuances. Definitely read the book first.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing here to match the sharp characterization of the alcoholic commuter at the center of [The Girl on the Train] ... even after you’ve managed to untangle all the willfully misleading information, half-baked subplots, and myriad characters, you’re going to have a tough time keeping it straight ... Let's call it sophomore slump and hope for better things.