When I first got my hands on The Girl on the Train when it came out in 2015, I read it in one sitting, devouring each page until its startling conclusion left me breathless and believing I'd never read anything as good. That is, until I read Into the Water, which is actually better than its predecessor in unexpected and surprising ways. Captivating, smart, and ambitious, Paula Hawkins's sophomore psychological thriller is one you won't be able to stop thinking about.
The gripping story is set in a small town in England that's home to the Beckford Drowning Pool, a notorious "place to get rid of troublesome women." Into The Water traces back over 300 years of local history that includes the murders, suicides, and suspicious deaths of several local girls. Beginning in 1679, when the first woman was forced into the water under suspicion of witchcraft, and lurching forward into the present day, the central story of Hawkins's highly anticipated novel follows the life and mysterious "suicide" of Danielle "Nel" Abbott, a talented but obsessive journalist and photographer who dedicated her life to two things: her work and her daughter. At the time of her death, Nel was documenting the lives and deaths of the women who went into the Drowning Pool, including that of her daughter's best friend.
When her estranged sister, Jules, is called home to make arrangements and care for Nel's orphaned daughter, Lena, she isn't convinced as easily as the rest of Beckford that the death was a suicide. She grew up in Beckford, knows its waters, and knows that something more sinister is at work. As she digs through Nel's research and unfinished manuscript to piece together the mystery of her death, Jules begins to realize that she and her sister aren't the only ones in town with dark secrets they'd rather leave at the bottom of the river.
While it's not the perfect novel — it does, at times, rely on some obvious plot devices, includes a few cheap narrative tricks, and requires several moments of suspended belief — Into the Wateris a fresh take on a story that continues to grow in popularity: the destruction of women's lives at the hands of their communities.