A Slow Fire Burning

by Paula Hawkins

Publishers Weekly The stabbing murder of 23-year-old Daniel Sutherland on his houseboat in London’s Regent’s Canal drives this twist-laden if unremarkable page-turner from bestseller Hawkins (The Girl on the Train). Miriam Lewis, who lives in the neighboring vessel, finds the body and removes a bloody key from the scene before notifying the police. Decades earlier, Miriam survived a horrific attack, wrote an unpublished memoir about it, and shared the manuscript with Theo Myerson, who used it, without attribution, as the basis for a novel, The One Who Got Away. Theo, it turns out, is Daniel’s uncle by marriage, and his toddler son died from a fall at Daniel’s mother’s home. Another suspect is Laura Kilbride, who slept with Daniel on the night of his death; as a child, she suffered a skull fracture that affected her ability to self-regulate and has trouble functioning as an adult. Sections from The One Who Got Away and flashbacks add to the challenge of putting the puzzle pieces together. The result is a satisfying whodunit, but its overreliance on coincidence makes it fall short of the high standard of Hawkins’s previous work. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (Aug.)

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Book list Here is the long-awaited third riveting thriller from the best-selling author of Into the Water (2017) and the global phenomenon that was The Girl on the Train (2015). A young man is found murdered in a London houseboat. Three damaged women have connections with him—some tenuous, some intense. Laura, who identifies as a “vulnerable adult,” has multiple social-behavior issues. A hit-and-run accident in her childhood left her broken physically and mentally and, eventually, psychically as well. Carla, the victim's aunt, is still coming to terms with the son she lost years ago and with the recent death of her sister, Angela, whom she held responsible for her son's catastrophic end. The victim is her nephew, Angela’s son. The third woman, Miriam, not only snoops, she also keeps a notebook! Laura describes her as a hobbit. She moves with “legs heavy as her heart.” Miriam survived an abduction at age 15 that claimed the life of her best friend. A fourth character, the poignant Irene, is a marvel of creation. Readers will witness courage and ingenuity where it is least expected, satisfying revenge where none was thought possible, and salvation that is painfully long overdue. Lee Child calls Hawkins an “intensely human” writer, and this book puts her on a par with the supreme Ruth Rendell. Packed with OMG moments, this novel may be slow burning, but it’s a scorcher nonetheless.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: That girl on the train continues to assure that Hawkins will draw readers, and her latest repays the investment handsomely.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus A young man has been stabbed to death on a houseboat...that much is clear. Hawkins' third novel, after her smash debut with The Girl on the Train (2015) and a weak follow-up with Into the Water (2017), gets off to a confusing start. A series of vignettes introduce numerous characters—Irene, Deidre, Laura, Miriam, Daniel (dead), Carla, Theo, Angela (dead)—all of whom live or lived in a very small geographical area and have overlapping connections and reasons to be furious at each other. We can all agree that the main question is who killed Daniel, the 23-year-old on the houseboat, but it is soon revealed that his estranged mother had died just a few weeks earlier—a drunk who probably fell, but maybe was pushed, down the stairs—and his cousin also fell to his death some years back. Untimely demise runs in the family. The highlight of these goings-on is Laura, a tiny but ferocious young woman who was seen running from Daniel's boat with blood on her mouth and clothes the last night he was alive. Physically and mentally disabled by an accident in her childhood, Laura is so used to being accused and wronged (and actually she is quite the sticky fingers) that she's not surprised when she's hauled in for Daniel's murder, though she's pretty sure she didn't do it. The secondary crimes and subplots include abduction, sexual assault, hit-and-run, petty larceny, plagiarism, bar brawling, breaking and entering, incest, and criminal negligence, and on top of all this there's a novel within a novel that mirrors events recalled in flashback by one of the characters. When Irene reads it, she's infuriated by "all the to-ing and fro-ing, all that jumping around in the timeline....Just start at the beginning, for god's sake. Why couldn't people just tell a story straight any longer, start to finish?" Hmmmmm. Overkill. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Kirkus A young man has been stabbed to death on a houseboat...that much is clear.Hawkins' third novel, after her smash debut with The Girl on the Train (2015) and a weak follow-up with Into the Water (2017), gets off to a confusing start. A series of vignettes introduce numerous charactersIrene, Deidre, Laura, Miriam, Daniel (dead), Carla, Theo, Angela (dead)all of whom live or lived in a very small geographical area and have overlapping connections and reasons to be furious at each other. We can all agree that the main question is who killed Daniel, the 23-year-old on the houseboat, but it is soon revealed that his estranged mother had died just a few weeks earliera drunk who probably fell, but maybe was pushed, down the stairsand his cousin also fell to his death some years back. Untimely demise runs in the family. The highlight of these goings-on is Laura, a tiny but ferocious young woman who was seen running from Daniel's boat with blood on her mouth and clothes the last night he was alive. Physically and mentally disabled by an accident in her childhood, Laura is so used to being accused and wronged (and actually she is quite the sticky fingers) that she's not surprised when she's hauled in for Daniel's murder, though she's pretty sure she didn't do it. The secondary crimes and subplots include abduction, sexual assault, hit-and-run, petty larceny, plagiarism, bar brawling, breaking and entering, incest, and criminal negligence, and on top of all this there's a novel within a novel that mirrors events recalled in flashback by one of the characters. When Irene reads it, she's infuriated by "all the to-ing and fro-ing, all that jumping around in the timeline....Just start at the beginning, for god's sake. Why couldn't people just tell a story straight any longer, start to finish?" Hmmmmm.Overkill. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal A young man is found brutally murdered on his gently rocking London houseboat, and the police immediately have three women in their sights: recent one-night stand Laura, prying neighbor Miriam, and Aunt Carla, already mourning another family death. Not surprisingly, a 500,000-copy first printing.

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