“She was struck by the smell. Underneath the blood, all that blood, there was something else, something older, sweet and rank, like lilies left too long in the vase. The smell and the look of him, impossible to resist, his beautiful dead face, glassy eyes framed by long lashes, plump lips drawn back from even, white teeth. His torso, his hands, and arms were a mess of blood, his fingertips curled to the floor. As though he was hanging on. As she turned to leave, her eye snagged on something on the floor, something out of place — a glint of silver mired in sticky, blackening blood.”

IT ALL STARTS WITH A BODY

The nosey parker that she is, Miriam hadn’t expected to find her next-door neighbor murdered when she went over to relay an important matter to him. The victim is a young man named Daniel, generally considered to be an inscrutable, hard-to-read person due to his tumultuous childhood, difficult upbringing and unresolved issues with family. Daniel’s death delivers a hard blow for his aunt Carla who is still reeling from the untimely loss of her sister. All the evidence points to Laura, a hapless soul who often finds herself on the wrong side of the law. But nothing is as it seems. With Daniel’s death, Pandora’s box seems to have been opened as Miriam, Carla and Laura face the brutal realities of their lives that were hitherto kept at bay. With each one looking to settle scores and vying for revenge, the swiveling lies, like a slow-burning fire, are threatening to consume them all. 

I have been an avid fan of Paula Hawkins ever since I read The Girl on the Train, the bestselling novel that put Hawkins on the map and won her critical acclaim. I’ve been eagerly awaiting her latest release, A Slow Fire Burning (Riverhead), and having read it now, what can I say? It doesn’t disappoint one bit! I loved everything about this book, starting with the title, which could not be more apt and sums up the whole story precisely. 

The book begins on a nerve-wracking note with a girl trying to escape her captor. The tension and suspense build until the point where the reader realizes that they have just been tricked … there is a book within this book. What a truly novel concept! I promised I wouldn’t spill the beans, but let’s just say that the mystery book in the story is central to the plot.

MULTIDIMENSIONAL CHARACTERS AND A COMPLEX PLOT

The main storyline involves a astonishing plot with many events taking place all at once. Sticking to her forte of compelling storytelling through unreliable narration, Hawkins gives us not one but three unreliable and unlikeable narrators: Miriam, Carla and Laura, who confuse the readers with their alternating POVs,  often twisting the truth, distorting the events at will and holding onto their little secrets like their lives depend on it. But as the mystery unravels piece by piece, the characters are shown for what they are and one can’t help but sympathize with them all. 

Each of these ladies is wronged in some way and their attempts to make sense of their lives are both devastating and heartrending. I felt most deeply for Carla, whose world comes crashing down when a certain shocking truth is exposed. As for the supporting characters, they keep the elements of suspense flowing seamlessly without revealing too many details that would spoil the read. The ending was simply mind-blowing and I don’t think I will recover from that plot twist anytime soon. 

To pull off a mind-boggling plot involving several twists and turns and complicated, puzzling characters is no ordinary feat. Hawkins has truly done a brilliant job in spinning a riveting and captivating tale from start to finish.

This is a skillfully crafted read that should not be missed.

Buy this book!

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. Her first thriller, The Girl on the Train, has been a global phenomenon, selling 23 million copies worldwide. Published in over forty languages, it has been a bestseller around the world and was a box office hit film starring Emily Blunt. Into the Water, her second stand-alone thriller, has also been a global bestseller.