Book Reviews

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

As much as I like to try and broaden my horizons when it comes to the genres of books I read, sometimes I just have to go back to my comfort zone to the mystery/thrillers that I love so much. I really enjoyed The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins so her new release for 2021, A Slow Fire Burning was automatically on my radar to read.

In A Slow Fire Burning, the body of a young man is found on a canal boat by a nosy neighbour. There are three main suspects, and the book takes us through the events both leading up to the murder, and the event immediately after. What I loved most about The Girl on the Train was Paula Hawkins’ talent for describing the British setting, and that was definitely the strongest element of this book, too. I live just a couple of roads away from a canal with multiple canal boats often moored there and it was so easy to picture this story happening right where I live.

Unfortunately, the setting was the only thing I really loved about this book. My biggest struggle with starting a new read is getting to know the characters. I probably read the first 10-20% of a book at about half the speed that I read the rest, because I’m trying to remember the characters’ names and where exactly they fit in to the story. Once I’m there, I’m absolutely fine, but I struggled with at least the entire first half of A Slow Fire Burning. Maybe that’s on me, but there aren’t even that many characters here and every night when I picked up my kindle I was finding myself having to skip back several pages to try and jog my memory of what happened last. Eventually I gave up and went with the flow, and that helped in the end.

By the time I found myself well acquainted with everyone involved in this murder mystery, I’d lost the interest of finding out who did it and why. The second half was much faster paced and more thrilling, but by that point it was all a case of too little, too late for me. I also found a lot of the characters really unlikeable. The guy who got murdered wasn’t a nice guy. The three suspects also weren’t very nice people, so what are the stakes here? The only character I liked, and actually I really loved her, was the elderly neighbour who had more sense and charisma than everyone else put together.

So I guess this is my first read of the year that I really didn’t like! Which is rare for me, I tend to enjoy almost everything that I read. But you can’t win them all, can you? I’m still looking forward to Paula Hawkins’ upcoming novel Blind Spot, due for release in 2022. It hasn’t put me off at all.

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