Tag Archives: murder

Book review – Into the Water

The Girl on the Train was a stellar chart-topping publishing success for Paula Hawkins, the psychological thriller selling over 18 million copies worldwide and being adapted into a big-budget Hollywood movie, starring Emily Blunt.

So how does a writer follow that?

With Into the Water, another psychological murder mystery, but told this time from the viewpoint of multiple characters, and across seemingly disparate narrative threads.

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

One of the central characters is the fictional Northumberland town of Beckford, where Jules is forced to return for her sister’s funeral, and where she also has her own demons.

I struggled a little in the first part of this book. There seemed to me to be too many narrators, too many “inconvenient women” dying in the Drowning Pool, spanning too many years.

But like a dexterous seamstress, the author pulls together all the frayed ends and disparate threads in a nerve-jangling finale. My friend and colleague Tina, from TripFiction, observes in her own  review that: the book is constructed like a circular eddy, reflecting the motion of the water in the Drowning Pool – the characters, too, go round in circles. 


But – ultimately – I found this an engaging, well written and cleverly constructed novel, that will no doubt also end up on the big screen.

Thank you, Ms Hawkins…..where next, I wonder?

Paula Hawkins – image courtesy of the BBC



Book review – Ian McEwan’s Nutshell

A novella is defined as a work of written, fictional, narrative prose normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.

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At just 199 pages, I’m not sure if Ian McEwan’s latest literary output Nutshell qualifies as a novel. I’m sure his legions of supporters will gobble up this wholly original story regardless of its definition, but after I read the final sentence – The rest is chaos – I’m afraid I felt just a little cheated.


Of course it’s cleverly plotted, and dazzlingly written. It couldn’t fail to be, from one of our greatest living writers, the man who created Atonement, Enduring Love, Saturday, The Cement Garden, The Innocent, The Children Act, and many more contemporary literary classics.

Nutshell is narrated by an unborn foetus, who sees his mother and her lover – her husband’s brother – plotting to kill his father. Ring any bells? Yes, the plot gives a very undisguised nod to Hamlet, and some of Mr McEwan’s prose is decidedly Shakespearian at times.

What then are my chances, a blind, dumb invert, an almost-child, still living at home, secured by apron-strings of arterial and venous blood to the would-be murderess?

But shush! The conspirators are talking…

But shush! I’m afraid this feels more like an essay than a fully-formed novel, in the class of Atonement or Saturday. Perhaps he needed to get something out to appease his publishers?

Harsh? Maybe. But can we please have a fully-fledged novel next time, Mr McEwan?

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