Into the Water – By Paula Hawkins

Into the WaterRating:

Synopsis2 A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

My reviewPaula Hawkins’ second book, relies a lot on the history of the small town forming the story’s setting for the haunting feeling that permeates throughout the book. This, along with almost a dozen narrators, is what provides the book with much of the smokescreen for what ultimately is a fairly simplistic resolution to the murder mystery.

Getting into the story does take some time, especially with so many narrators. It did throw me off a bit because I am not used to reading multi-PoVs that are more than 3 or 4. But with each narrator came a small but significant chunk of jigsaw pieces to the main puzzle at the heart of the plot and I am just glad that I actually caught onto and remembered all the minute details. Into the Water had what, in my opinion, makes the best kind of whodunits – where you guess the answers to some of the “smaller” questions based on what the author feeds you but are still stumped by the final revelation.

I loved the The Girl on the Train and I guess it is natural to have high expectations from the authors’ second books after their fab debuts. Into the Water is no TGotT – I felt the latter was definitely more character-driven with an alcoholic as the primary unreliable narrator. However, with Into the Water, I just felt that the large number of narrators somehow ended up inhibiting the author from actually devoting time to SHOWING how the people in the community felt about or got along with each other before and after the two successive deaths in their town. One of the main characters, Jules, who is actually the first narrator and who being one of the dead women’s sister, is at the heart of plot, didn’t make any impression on me at all. This was despite all the flashbacks we get about Jules and her sister in their teens. I actually found the backstory through the flashbacks more powerful and somehow connected with the younger Jules more than the present-day one – despite her transformation from someone who was ambivalent about her sister’s story or her niece’s emotional well-being to someone who finally starts making an effort. I connected more with her niece Lena’s frustration at her aunt and everyone around her who were trying to “meddle” into her mom’s and best friend’s deaths instead of believing her convictions that they were suicides.

The book has a dark, unhappy cloud shrouding it the whole time, but you don’t have any time to dwell on any particular mood because of all the frequent narrator changes. Though that is a good thing in terms of keeping the pace of the novel from dropping, the flipside of it was that some of the emotional moments didn’t make much of an impact on me. There were deaths, families grieving, a funeral, estranged families and a doomed love story but none of them moved me all that much. However, if you loved Hawkins’ writing in her first book, and if you are up for a good murder mystery; I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this. If I have to compare between the two, this one was definitely cleverer.

 

Silent Sentry – By Theresa Rizzo

Rating:

*Note : I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

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Synopsis:

Someone wants Gianna Donnatelli.  Preferably alive.  Alive and compliant.  He’s willing to kill to get to her.  But she’s got family. 
The Scarfilis and Donnatellis love deeply and protect fiercely. “Family takes care of family” is the code they live by.
When a hacker threatens Gianna Donnatelli’s life, Dr. Joe Scarfili is determined to keep her safe, only he has no police or tech experience, and Gianna’s penchant for aiding Detroit’s underprivileged is the same kind of altruism that got his wife killed. Gianna protects Joe with the same unyielding resolve.

Gianna pushes all his insecurity buttons. Joe tries her patience like no other. But together they’ll fight to save each other and their love… Or die trying.

Award-winning author Theresa Rizzo delivers a thrilling crime novel packed with suspense, romance, and redemption.

My Review:

At over 400 hundred pages, this is a pretty balanced and wholesome romantic-suspense; with the pace of this book best described as probably being on cruise control! And by that I mean, while it isn’t the kind of book which drops a bombshell every other page or is action-packed, it doesn’t slack much either. This did make for a leisurely read with ample time spent on both the romantic and mystery aspect.

Pretty early on we are given the hint that both Gianna and Joe are from families of considerable clout, more specifically – well-connected to or regularly dealing with old-world Italian mafia families. Neither of them has ever shown any interest in going into the family businesses though. Joe got married, became a successful surgeon, and well, got widowed when his wife was killed in a drive-by shooting. Gianna initially trained as a nurse, with her desire to “care for” stemming from watching her mom succumb to MS. She soon realizes her real passion is in software development though, so she quits nursing and gets into coding. Her altruistic side never leaves her as she decides to live among the poor and dangerous, dinghy Detroit areas to try and lead by example, and also coaxes her dad to help her with the finances to open a clinic nearby.  However, one day her house is broken into and she is attacked, and she ends up in the same hospital where Joe works in. Old, unrequited feelings for him resurface; but reciprocation is the last thing on her mind at the moment, as she tries to work out just what was the attacker after. She keeps her fingers crossed that it has nothing to do with Prometheus , her baby-  an invention that can revolutionize the healthcare industry.

One of the things I liked in the book is the world building. By that, I don’t mean just the descriptions and history of the place this is set in, but also all the characters and occupations and relationships that were mentioned. We are introduced to Joe’s and Gianna’s families and the author does dwell on their histories and the bond their families have shared. We also meet Gianna’s partners at work and Joe’s best friend.  There are times I feel that storytelling in some genres gets so .. insular when it comes to showing us about the protagonists’ lives, with pretty much no details given on anything else about them,  as long as it is playing up to the theme of the book. So it was nice to really know where everyone comes from. But on the flip side, I felt there were quite a few open sub-plots which were hinted to, but we never got any further answers or explanations. One that I can think of which really stuck out was this entire undercurrent of Joe not being on good terms with his extended family, specifically his uncle and cousin, due to some old incident. This was never really addressed. Similarly there were a couple of other things, like Joe having some secret in his past that he didn’t want anyone to know.

Coming to the romance, well most of it was unhurried and I liked that the author addressed how two people with fundamental ideological differences do have their work cut out for them if they have to proceed with a relationship. Having said that, I honestly found Gianna pretty irritating with her sanctimonious manner. And if I may add, self-absorbed, judgmental and insensitive whenever Joe tried to present his perspective. I thought, “C’mon girl, his wife died in a drive-by shooting in Detroit. Is it so hard to piece together why he feels that way about what you do?!”.  Thank heavens she got more bearable as the book proceeded!

The suspense part was not exactly an amazingly constructed whodunit and I honestly felt the entire book could have been much better with sharper editing. But, but, but, I love it when books that lure you into a false sense of closure finally throws up a couple of shocks in the final few pages.  And this is one of those books. I never saw them coming, so I was pretty spooked; and also glad that the book did end in a bit of a flourish!