A Slow Fire Burning: A Novel - book cover
Thrillers & Suspense
  • Publisher : Riverhead Books
  • Published : 31 Aug 2021
  • Pages : 320
  • ISBN-10 : 073521123X
  • ISBN-13 : 9780735211230
  • Language : English

A Slow Fire Burning: A Novel


The scorching new thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train.

A Slow Fire Burning twists and turns like a great thriller should, but it's also deep, intelligent and intensely human.” – Lee Child

“Only a clairvoyant could anticipate the book’s ending” – New York Times
With the same propulsion that captivated millions of readers worldwide in The Girl on the Train and Into the Water, Paula Hawkins unfurls a gripping, twisting story of deceit, murder, and revenge.

When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?
Look what you started.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for A Slow Fire Burning

"Sure to set the literary world on fire."-Good Morning America

"A Slow Fire Burning is a classic whodunit that unfolds the mystery until the very last page."-USA Today

"[It] Simmers…this one is indeed a page-turner….like a good curry, layered with spices, percolating for about 300 pages, leaving readers sated at the end." -The Associated Press

"A Slow Fire Burning is not only her most complex, twist-filled tale yet, but it's also the most mature, intricately detailed, and superbly paced book of her career."-shondaland

"Gives the term "thriller" a whole new meaning…Hawkins's new book is a bloody masterpiece that's darker than it appears."-Popsugar

"Paula Hawkins is the queen of keeping us on the edge of our seats. … [A Slow Fire Burning is] the thriller of the summer."-HelloGiggles

"A nuanced picture of the female psyche…a cleverly crafted whodunit."-Salon

"This thrilling whodunnit barely lets you breathe as it barrels toward a shocking ending."-Good Housekeeping

"A creeping psychological thriller about entanglement and strained family relations that spiral into viciousness...Hawkins submerges readers into the troubled lives of her leading ladies... Hawkins shapes the three women's stories in a way that brings their simmering fears and grief to the surface." -AV Club

"Get ready for your next big thrill ride...Filled with plot twists, it promises to keep you guessing until the very end."-CNN

"A Slow Fire Burning is the latest from Paula Hawkins, the woman whose words haunt your dreams. . .We follow three women close to the deceased-an ex, an aunt, and a neighbor. Each has kindled a hot-burning anger against the man in question, and Hawkins happily fans the flames."-Glamour

"A Slow Fire Burning
is a treat: utterly readable, moving in parts and saturated with the kind of localized detail that made The Girl on the Train so compelling…a return to form."-The Guardian

"A Slow Fire Burning is a hugely satisfying, brilliantly crafted novel about the entanglement of betrayal and retaliation, the damage of loss, and how tragedy reverberates in ways we can never expect. Wickedly dark and gorgeously written, this is a novel you'll be thinking about long after the last delicious pages. Paula Hawkins is masterful." - Ashley Audrain, New York Times

Readers Top Reviews

I’m laid up poorly in bed and this is just the tonic; I thought I’d figured it out but I hadn’t . The true talent of an author to make me think I’ve cracked it, and bam! Another plot twist. I think I loved Laura the most.
Eric Lee
I really liked The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins’ first best-selling thriller, and approached this book with caution. One should always be prepared for disappointment following blockbuster books and their Hollywood adaptations. But I was not disappointed: this story has elements in common with the earlier book, including complex female characters who struggle to be heard. Hawkins makes these characters – who live and work in North London, not far from where I live — seem real. There is a murder mystery at the heart of the story, but I found that to be a relatively easy puzzle to solve. The challenge of the book is finding answers to people’s lives, to their problems, some of which go back to childhood. The fact that long after one puts the book down, one cares about those characters is testimony to Hawkins’ talent.
AnnTimothyThe Cookst
I was in a reading slump and looking forward to an author that is usually great. This was not the book. The only character worth noting was Irene, a “Miss Marple” that solved the murder. The other characters were obnoxious and there was no character development. It was boring and painful to read. Don’t bother with this one.
customerMelody Sti
I enjoyed the author's previous two books and had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately it was slow, predictable, and without any compelling plot twists. Do not recommend
a reader
If you are expecting another Girl on the Train, this novel may initially disappoint, but to me it is equally as good and pleasantly more mature than its famous predecessor. A Slow Fire Burning takes a small group of characters in a little patch of London and traces all their encounters and connections. It also pokes fun at itself and the crime novel genre in general -- while never minimizing the pain of the characters or the reality of evil and violence. I found it deeply satisfying. This novel reminds me a lot of Ruth Rendell (and her Barbara Vine psychological thrillers), particularly the latter half of her career where she tended to mix the crime story with a bit of social commentary. A Slow Fire Burning has many damaged characters, but they are all shades of gray rather than black and white, and ultimately you aren't entirely sure of some of the facts (no spoilers here). Hawkins is superb at creating characters who only know their particular version of events -- so there is seldom one "truth" that more than a single person believes. This is quite like real life, and much more interesting to read, I think, than the intense single-person narrative of something like The Girl on the Train. I shot through this book in a day and plan to reread it at some point. Give it a try and see if this style is for you!

Short Excerpt Teaser



Inside Laura's head, Deidre spoke. The trouble with you, Laura, she said, is that you make bad choices.


Too fucking 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 that imaginary Deidre was bang on the money. She leaned forward, her forehead resting against the mirror so that she wouldn't have to look herself in the eye, only looking down was worse, because that way she could watch the blood ooze out of her, and it made her woozy, made her feel like she might throw up. So much blood. The cut was deeper than she'd thought; she ought to go to the hospital. There was no way she was going to the hospital.


Bad choices.


When at last the flow of blood seemed to slow, Laura took off her T-shirt and dropped it on the floor, slipped out of her jeans, dropped her knickers, and wriggled out of her bra, inhaling sharply through her teeth as the metal catch scraped against the cut, hissing, "Fuck fuck mother of fuck."


She dropped the bra on the floor too, clambered into the bathtub, and turned on the shower, then stood shivering under the paltry trickle of scalding water (her shower offered a choice of very hot or very cold, nothing in between). She ran the tips of her wrinkled fingers back and forth over her beautiful, bone-white scars: hip, thigh, shoulder, back of skull. Here I am, she said quietly to herself. Here I am.


Afterward, her forearm wrapped ineffectually in reams of toilet paper, the rest of her wrapped in a threadbare towel, sitting on the ugly gray pleather sofa in her living room, Laura rang her mother. It went to voicemail, and she hung up. No point wasting credit. She rang her father next. "You all right, chicken?" She could hear noises in the background, the radio, 5 Live.


"Dad." She felt a lump rise to her throat and she swallowed it.


"What's up?"


"Dad, could you come round? I . . . I had a bad night. I was wondering if you could just come over for a bit, I know it's a bit of a drive but I-"


No, Philip. Deidre, in the background, hissing through clenched teeth. We've got bridge.


"Dad? Could you take me off speaker?"


"Sweetheart, I-"


"Seriously, could you take me off speaker? I don't want to hear her voice; it makes me want to set fire to things."


"Now, come on, Laura."


"Just forget it, Dad, it doesn't matter."


"Are you sure?"


No I'm not no I'm not no I'm fucking not. "Yeah, sure. I'm fine. I'll be fine."


On her way to the bedroom, she stepped on her jacket, which she'd dropped in the hallway in her rush to get to the bathroom. She bent down and picked it up. The sleeve was torn, Daniel's watch still in the pocket. She took the watch out, turned it over, slipped it over her wrist. The toilet paper around her forearm bloomed scarlet, her limb throbbing gently as the blood pulsed out of her. Her head swam. In the bathroom, she dropped the watch into the sink, tore off the paper, dropped the towel on the floor. Climbed back under the shower.


Using a pair of scissors to scrape beneath her fingernails, she watched the water running rosy at her feet. She closed her eyes. She listened to Daniel's voice asking, What is wrong with you? and Deidre's voice saying, Bridge, Philip, we've got bridge, and to her own. Set fire to things. Set fire. Set fire set fire set fire.




Every second Sunday, Miriam cleaned out the toilet. She had to lift the (always surprisingly, unpleasantly heavy) cassette out of the little toilet at the back of the boat, carry it through the cabin and out onto the towpath, and from there a full hundred yards to the loo block, where the waste had to be tipped out into the main toilet and flushed away, the cassette rinsed out to clear whatever remained. One of the less idyllic parts of narrowboat living and a task she liked to carry out early, when there was no one else around. So undignified, to ferry one's shit about among strangers, dog-walkers, joggers.


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 nights). It was a bright morning, cold for March, though white buds on glossy new branches of plane and birch hinted at spring.


Cold for March, and yet she noticed that the cabin doors of the neighboring narrowbo...