It’s time to review the featured book for April 2016. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was selected as our latest mystery read. The book is the best-selling of 2015 so I was eager to find out why.
If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up to the book club if you’d like to be in with a chance of winning May’s featured book. It will be revealed tomorrow.
I have to admit something. I’m a sucker for suspense, to the point that I’m sucked in by the cheapest of cliff-hanger setups. My weakness for suspense made me burn through the pages of The Girl on the Train faster than any book I’ve read recently.
The story hinges itself on alcoholic protagonist Rachel Watson forgetting the events of one crucial night. It’s the night that ends in the disappearance of a woman who lived near her former home. The missing woman (Megan) also happens to be the same woman that Rachel spies on as her daily train commute opens up a view into her back garden.
Throughout the story, we’re also drawn into Rachel’s obsession with her ex-husband Tom. After getting fed up with Rachel’s drinking, Tom left her for his new wife Anna. The book switches between the perspectives of Rachel, Megan and Anna to tell the full story and weave all the events together.
If you indulge in mystery often then there’s a good chance you’ll see through all Paula Hawkins’s red herrings and figure out the murder early on. My biggest critique would be that these red herrings are both obvious and forced. It makes figuring out the true culprit a process of elimination.
One moment is particularly jarring; as Rachel starts to visit Megan’s therapist. Who as you may guess, becomes one of the main suspects. Then to top it all off we see one of the other suspects become aggressive towards Rachel. The manner in which it happens is so unconvincing that the only effect this has is making it clear that we’re running out of possible suspects.
Although the outcome of the mystery is transparent, what had me engrossed with The Girl on the Train was the psychology of the characters. The main characters are all cleverly flawed people, and being in their minds is just as interesting as the murder mystery itself. None are more interesting than Rachel; who takes the train every morning regardless of losing her job (because of alcohol) months ago. All so she can have her concerned roommate believe that she still has a job.
The pages kept turning because I wanted to read about these characters more and more as the events unfolded. Their damaged minds overshadowed the mystery itself to the point I was able to forgive the predictability of it. As a firm believer that unlikable characters make great characters, this book supported my belief to the fullest degree. I did genuinely like lead character Rachel Watson, but I despised every other character. Even if I was hooked on reading about them.
Paula Hawkins understands both suspense and psychology. She uses both elements to brew one of the most welcoming page-turners you could ever read. The Girl on the Train would make the perfect entry level read for somebody wanting to explore the Mystery or Psychology genres. I’ve even passed it around to a few friends myself. Seasoned readers may not praise the book as much as everyone else does, but the book is a bestseller for a reason. No masterpiece goes without flaws. The Girl on the Train may not exactly be a masterpiece, but beyond its shortcomings is a neatly wrapped gift, guaranteed to grab its recipient.
Buy the book (US)