cover image A Slow Fire Burning

A Slow Fire Burning

Paula Hawkins. Riverhead, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-735211-23-0

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 Decades earlier, Miriam survived a horrific attack, wrote an unpublished memoir about it, and shared the manuscript with Theo Myerson, who used it, without attribution, as the basis for a novel, The One Who Got Away.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.)