Top positive review
Reviewed in the United States on September 2, 2021
Reading the new novel by Paula Hawkins, “A Slow Fire Burning” was a major surprise, not because her “The Girl In The Train” was so good, but because her last novel, “Into The Water”, was so disappointing. It lost its way halfway through and its ending was a muddle.
The latter work made it seem like the former was a fluke. Well, great news. Paula Hawkins has bounced back with a fiendishly clever murder mystery with an ending I never saw coming.
It’s a great story. A young man is found stabbed to death, throat slashed, on the run down boat where he’d been living. The prime suspect is the young woman who’d left him hours earlier. But there are several stories going on at once here. There’s the young man’s aunt, who’s just recently lost her sister, the boy’s mother. There’s the busybody 2 boats away who’s found him. There’s the man that woman has accused of plagiarism, (excerpts from his novel are scattered throughout the book). There’s the elderly woman who lives next door to the the house where the sister had lived and may not be what she seems.
The genius stroke here is instead of one unreliable narrator, there are five. Five dissimilar stories that don’t seem to connect. Until they do. Old grudges. Old crimes. And one massive red herring in the form of one of the narrators.
It’s so wonderful to find Paula Hawkins at the top of her game here, after losing her narrative grip on her previous novel. “A Slow Fire Burning” fulfills the promise of “The Girl On The Train”, and then, makes us realize “Into The Water” was the fluke. This one is the real deal.