Book Reviews: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon #GhostFiction

Creative concept of book open on a dock by lake with pages of book part of lake. Sunset setting with ducks on lake

Hi, Friends! Tuesday turned out to be a day that got away from me, so I’m doing my usual book review post today. I should be back on schedule next week. In the meantime, I have a review from one of my auto-buy authors to share. I pre-ordered this book the moment I saw it was available!

BOOK BLURB:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim.

Be careful what you wish for.

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us.

MY REVIEW

Oh, how creepy! I love how Jennifer McMahon weaves spookiness and mystery so deftly in dual timelines. She never disappoints me with her books. Both timelines in this story are engrossing, but I was riveted by the one in the past which centers around a luxury resort hotel. The time period is 1929-1930, slightly before and after the Great Depression. People flock to the hotel, looking for healing. Many swear they’ve been cured of ailments after a dip in a pool on the property, or by whispering a wish to the water. 

This is no ordinary pool. The water is murky and dark and bears a sulfuric, metallic scent. It’s rumored the water gives as much as it takes, and for every wish it grants, payment must be made in kind.

Will and Ethel are newlyweds trying to start a family. Ethel desperately wants a baby, and it seems such a simple thing to make a wish by the water—especially after a dip in the pool heals three cuts on her leg as if they never existed. I loved both Will and Ethel, and was on pins and needles as their life unfolded after Ethel’s wish.

In the present, Jax arrives at her grandmother’s home, Sparrow Crest, once the site of the hotel. She and her sister Lexi spent summers with their grandmother and grew up swimming in the pool. When their grandmother passed away, Lexi inherited the property, but now she’s gone—drowned in the pool. Jax considered Lexi’s mental state precarious but knows her sister was an expert swimmer. Soon after arriving, she discovers bits and pieces of old history Lexi was collecting about the pool and the old resort hotel, along with journal entries and frantic scribblings.

Chapters alternate between Ethel’s POV in the past and Jax’s in the present. Although I was not as invested in Jax’s storyline as Ethel’s, she had some wonderfully goose bump scenes. Like when she’s measuring the depth of the pool at night with a flashlight or when she thinks she hears someone outside and finds wet footprints by the door.

This is an atmospheric read, slowly building suspense. The descriptions of the pool are haunting and dark, the mystery intricate and compelling. I loved how both past and present funnel together in the concluding chapters. The ending was not what I expected, and I had to ruminate on it for a while. Definitely a twist. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for review posting.


Jennifer McMahon was the first author I read who used dual timelines in a novel. It was because of The Night Sister, that I chose to use past and present timelines in my Hode’s Hill series.

Like The Night Sister and The Drowning Kind, the three novels that comprise Hode’s Hill—Cusp of Night, End of Day, and Eventide combine mystery and suspense with ghostly elements. In closing, I’m going to offer a shameless plug. If you haven’t read Hode’s Hill, you can pick up all three books in the series for a total of $4.97. Each novel can be read as a standalone, but my publisher currently as a sale going on the whole set.

As always, I wish you happy reading. Be sure to let me know your thoughts on The Drowning Kind, too!