Three women, three men, connected through marriage or infidelity. Each is to blame for something. But only one is a killer in this nail-biting, stealthy psychological thriller about human frailty and obsession.
Just what goes on in the houses you pass by every day?
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and evening, rattling over the same junctions, flashing past the same townhouses.The train stops at the same signal every day, and she sees the same couple, breakfasting on their roof terrace. Jason and Jess, as she calls them, seem so happy. Then one day Rachel sees someone new in their garden. Soon after, Rachel sees the woman she calls Jess on the news. Jess has disappeared.
Through the ensuing police investigation, Rachel is drawn deeper into the lives of the couple she learns are really Megan and Scott Hipwell. As she befriends Scott, Rachel pieces together what really happened the day Megan disappeared. But when Megan’s body is found, Rachel finds the chief suspect in the case. Plunged into a world of betrayals, secrets and deceptions, Rachel must confront the facts about her own past and her own failed marriage.
A sinister and twisting story that will keep you guessing at every turn, The Girl on the Train is a high-speed chase for the truth. – Goodreads
This book threw me. I went into it expecting a somewhat light, suspenseful thriller. The kind with a murder or kidnapping, a gruff but effective investigator, a terrified witness (possibly one the police don’t take seriously), two or three possible suspects, and a pulse-pounding conclusion. The Girl On the Train ended up being so much more.
It’s a psychological thriller – heavy on the “psychological.” I was a little bit nervous after a conversation with Karen, in which she said she’d heard it was scary and had decided not to read it until she had more info. I’m okay with murder-mystery-scary up to a point, but every once in a while I come across one that’s a bit too scary, even for me!
Once I started reading, I did end up having to put it down a few times – but not because of the “thriller” aspect, but because of the “psychological” one.
At first, when I started the book, I thought maybe I’d misunderstood the description. Hawkins has a gift for drawing characters so heartbreakingly real that you’ll be squirming in your seat. She also set the scene flawlessly and with great detail. The result was that for the first several chapters of the book, there’s only subtle foreshadowing of the foul play to come. I started wondering – was this really a thriller? Or was the mystery something less immediately life-and-death and more a matter of personal discovery?
Then, all of a sudden, there it was. Except also there it wasn’t. This book doesn’t progress the way most thrillers do. Usually a thriller starts with a little bit of background or scene-setting, followed by a description of the crime, and then you get to know the people in the victim’s life as the author slowly teases out possible motives. This book was the other way around. It slowly wound itself around and up to the salient event. At which point Hawkins turned the entire story on its head.
It isn’t at all like Gone Girl in terms of the specifics, but the feel of it was similar. The more you learn about these characters, the less you feel like you know them. And again, they become less and less likeable. I didn’t dislike them anywhere near as much as the characters in Gone Girl, but my opinions of them definitely shifted as I read.
The plot itself was good – not great – but good. It went off in unexpected directions, there were red herrings, there was intrigue and lots of possible outcomes. For the first 3/4 of the book, you wouldn’t know it’s Hawkins’ first novel. Her plot development is different, sure, but that’s a good thing. I liked not knowing what to expect, and I lost myself in her words. (I even stopped several times to write quotes in my journal – not common for a thriller, which often tend towards the utilitarian in terms of writing style, not the poetic.) It was only towards the end that I was reminded that this was her first time at the rodeo, so to speak.
I found that, though I was okay with the ending, there were bits towards the end of the book that struck me as a bit unrealistic. It was as if either the author tried too hard not to give anything away, or had planned one conclusion, changed her mind, and then went back and forced the pieces to fit in with a new one. There weren’t quite enough bread crumbs along the way, and a little less foreshadowing than I would have liked. The ending still worked, but I would have preferred the scene being slightly better set for this particular outcome. A few minor tweaks, a bit more subtle hinting in character relationships so that when you find out what happened, all the pieces you’ve accumulated in your mind as you read snap into place. Unfortunately I can’t get any more specific without giving things away!
I finished this book nearly a week ago, but it’s still popping into my head. I find myself wondering how the characters got on after the book ended, what they’d do next if the story continued. This is the sign of a good book. Though the thriller aspect was definitely good, the writing is what really stood out. It’s rare to find such depth and beauty in a book centered primarily around suspense, let alone in a debut.
I’m glad this book kicked off my reading for 2015. It reminded me what good writing feels like when you lose yourself in it, and left me feeling haunted and yet wanting more. Was it perfect? No. But I’ll be first in line for Paula Hawkins’ next book, because if this debut is anything to go by, she’s one to watch.
**Thanks to Random House of Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Author: Paula Hawkins
Published By: Doubleday Canada
Released: January 6, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Psychological Thriller
Date Read: December 30, 2014 – January 1, 2015