Wednesday, April 15, 2015

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins

Rachel pseudo-commutes to London every day to give her pathetic life some structure and to live vicariously through a beautiful couple whose home she passes on the train.  When the wife, Megan, goes missing, Rachel recognizes her photo and inserts herself into the investigation, because she saw Megan kissing a man that was not her husband Scott.  The man Megan was kissing turns out to have been her therapist Kamal.  Rachel formerly lived in Megan’s neighborhood, and Rachel’s ex, Tom, still lives in their old house with his new wife Anna and their infant daughter.  So we have 3 women and 3 men as main characters, and they are all unlikeable.  Anna was Tom’s mistress while he was still married to Rachel; Tom is a manipulative adulterer; Megan is a nymphomaniac with a creepy past; Scott is possessive and overbearing; and Kamal obviously crosses a line with his patient that he shouldn’t have.  Rachel is the worst train wreck of all.  She is an alcoholic busybody who repeatedly drunk-dials Tom and has had more blackouts than she can count, including one the night Megan disappeared, when she happened to be in the neighborhood to harass her ex.  She takes self-loathing to new heights and struck me as a sort of completely dysfunctional Bridget Jones.  If you’re expecting a twist on a par with that of Gone Girl, I think you’ll be disappointed.  The identity of Megan’s abductor came as no surprise to me, but the author does a good job of building suspense, while leading us down numerous deadend paths.  The biggest mystery to me, though, is why this book has generated so much hype without delivering much in the way of gasp-inducing thrills.  This is nothing more than a whodunit without many choices as to who the culprit is.  A better literary thriller is You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, who pretty much skewered The Girl on the Train for the New York Times Book Review.

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