Likely Stories : A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins

Dec 9, 2021

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Paula Hawkins is the author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water.  A Slow Fire Burning is her latest novel. These superb novels are by turns frightful, serious, and filled with deceit—by the three main characters.  The story revolves around a gruesome murder, which arouses the suspicions of other characters.  These three women are connected to the victim. 

  

Paula wrote, “Inside Laura’s head, Deidre spoke.  The trouble with you, Laura, she said, is that you make bad choices. // Two ffen right, Deidre.  Not something Laura expected to say or even think, but standing there in her bathroom, shaking uncontrollably, blood pulsing hot and steady from the cut to her arm, she had to admit imaginary Deidre was bang on the money.  She leaned forward, her forehead resting against the mirror so that she wouldn’t have to look at herself in the eye, only looking down was worse, because that way she could watch the blood ooze out of her, and made her woozy, made her feel like she might throw up.  So much blood.  The cut was deeper than she thought: she ought to go to the hospital.  There was no way she was going to the hospital. // Bad Choices” (3).

Later, Paula wrote, “She was out on the back deck, checking she had a clear run—that there weren’t any obstacles on the path, bicycles, or bottles (people could be extremely antisocial, particularly late on Saturday night).  It was a bright morning, cold for March, though white buds on glossy new branches of plane and birch hinting at spring. // Cold for March, and yet she noticed that the cabin doors of the neighboring narrowboat were open, just as they had been the night before” (7).

Laura decided to look into the boat.  Paula wrote, “Hello?  Anyone at home? // She saw herself pulling on the cabin door, very gently, catching as she did a whiff of something, the smell of iron, meaty, hunger-inducing.  Hello?  Pulling the door open all the way, climbed down the couple of steps to the cabin, her last hello catching in her throat as she took it all in: the boy—not a boy, a young man, really—lying on the floor, blood everywhere, a wide smile carved into his throat. // She saw herself sway on her feet, hand over mouth, pitching forward for a long, dizzying moment, reaching out, grabbing the counter with her hand.  Oh, God” (7-8).

Paula Hawkins’s thrilling murder story matches her previous two books.  A Slow Fire Burning is sure to be another outstanding novel.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!