A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins audiobook review – Rosamund Pike turns up the heat

·2-min read

The gripping new thriller from the author of The Girl on the Train features a dead body on a London houseboat and a smörgåsbord of possible culprits. Read by the actor Rosamund Pike, it is set in the aftermath of a brutal stabbing and is told from multiple points of view. There’s Miriam from the neighbouring boat who “likes to keep an eye on things”; Laura, a hot-tempered young woman who slept with the victim shortly before his death; Carla, the dead man’s aunt, who is already mourning the death of her sister, Angela; and Irene, Angela’s elderly neighbour who is prone to confusion, but not so much that she doesn’t clock the goings-on next door.

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Pike makes deft work of these unreliable narrators who span several generations, imbuing their voices with a defensiveness and vulnerability born from past disappointments and trauma. Miriam is forever second-guessing the judgment of strangers who she knows see her as a lonely busybody, while Laura is chaotic and brittle-sounding, convinced that none of the calamities that befall her are ever her fault. In particular, Pike captures the melancholy of the widowed Irene, whose frail appearance and occasional mishaps prompt others to condescend and patronise rather than treat her as a sentient adult. This being a Hawkins novel, the plot twists are sprinkled liberally to keep listeners on their toes, though the story is sustained by the humanity of these expertly narrated characters whose secrets are slowly brought to the surface.

• A Slow Fire Burning is available on Penguin Audio, 9hr 20min.

This week’s other picks

Maybe I Don’t Belong Here
by David Harewood, Bluebird, 8hr 42min
A heartfelt memoir about race, identity and mental illness. Read by the actor himself, it makes for moving listening.

The Prophet
by Kahlil Gibran, Audible Studios, 1hr 25min
Riz Ahmed narrates a new recording of Gibran’s book of spiritual wisdom. First published in 1923, it has been translated into more than 100 languages and was loved by Gandhi and the Beatles.

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