Into the Water
When Nel Abbott turns up dead from an apparent suicide, her estranged sister Jules must return to her childhood home of Beckford. Torn between her grief and the discomfort of being back in town, Jules must try to make sense of her sister’s death while trying to look after her 15-year-old niece Lena. Just weeks before, Lena’s best friend and classmate Katie Whittaker met the same fate as Nel. While their deaths are tragic, not everyone in town believes these deaths were suicides.
In this follow-up to her mega-hit The Girl on the Train, author Paula Hawkins spins a suspenseful tale of crime, family, perception, and perceived justice.
Small Town, Big Secrets
The Drowning Pool was the site of no less than three other deaths before Nel and Katie. This swimming spot in the local river attracted stories of witches, lies, and guilt. Growing up, Nel was obsessed with the stories of Libby and Anne, young women who turned up dead in the Drowning Pool. When most everyone in town (save for Nickie Sage) seemed content to believe at best these women’s stories were likely little more than an eerie local legend (or at worst, suicides), Nel saw the Drowning Pool differently. Nel saw the Drowning Pool as a place to get rid of troublesome women, a place where women were killed to protect secrets.
Told in alternating POV, with timelines spanning decades, we learn that like most stories, everyone has their own opinion of what happened to Nel, Katie, and the others who died in the Drowning Pool.
Local detective Sean Townsend and newcomer Detective Erin Morgan comb through town trying to piece together why Nel would kill herself when her life’s work was dedicated to telling the story of the Drowning Pool, with her work unfinished.
Being back in Beckford brings back difficult memories for Jules. Growing up as the awkward, less attractive younger sister to Nel, Jules struggles to understand her past. She doesn’t understand why Nel chose to keep a secret so painful, it would change Jules forever. Having never had or been around children before, Jules struggles to be a sympathetic caretaker to her niece while Lena pushes her away at every turn.
Some in town believed that Nel’s work, her obsession with the Drowning Pool was a cheap way to cash in on the (private) pain of others. Katie’s mother, Louise Whittaker thinks that Nel’s work, her influence is what drew Katie to the pool, but Lena knows better. Even Katie’s 12-year-old brother Josh knows there’s more to Katie’s story.
Lena tries to protect the memory of her best friend and her mother while carrying a secret that she knows could change everything.
Old Ideas, New Perspective
During the investigation, detective Morgan and Jules learns the town’s history with the Drowning Pool, it’s secrets and it’s pain through the locals. Being given no information on the case ahead of time, Morgan hears different accounts of the Drowning Pool deaths from her new coworker, Sean Townsend, the local self-proclaimed psychic Nickie Sage, Katie’s mother Louise, and other townspeople. While most people discard Sage as a fraud with nothing valid to say, both Morgan and Jules suspect the reason people won’t listen to Nickie isn’t because she’s wrong, but because they don’t want to hear her truth.
Through half-truths and muddled memories, each of the people affected by the deaths at the Drowning Pool must make peace with what they believe caused each of the deaths. As the story unfolds, we learn that old secrets can only be kept as long as their keeper can live with the guilt.
Into the Water reminds us that even if keeping a secret may protect someone we love, that protection comes at a price. That false sense of security will be for nothing when the truth is revealed.
In Beckford, no one can escape their past. Even understandable, small missteps can transform into insurmountable foes. Everyone in Beckford is hungry to validate their pain but is quick to ignore the truth that stands before them.
Fast paced with deeply rooted ideas and a deep seeded current of guilt, Into the Water proves that some injustices can never be escaped, that no matter what price we pay, someone will always get hurt.
Fans of The Girl on the Train and Gillan Flynn’s work will appreciate Into the Water.
You can learn more about Paula Hawkins work by visiting her website.