Sometimes it is so satisfying to escape into a thriller. To open up a book and be swept into the world of a murder mystery. To discover a book that you can't put down. I love this genre but usually watch it rather than read it. "Sherlock," "Broadchurch," and "Grantchester" are just a few of the televised murder mysteries I have enjoyed. Enjoyed may be too weak a word; devoured would be more accurate. They are delicious.
The problem is that I read so much "literary" fiction, I never seem to have time to escape into my guilty pleasure. But last week after reading a review of The Girl on the Train from one of my favorite book bloggers, I went out and bought a copy and devoured it in a couple of days. It was delicious. I was happy that someone I respected liked the book because even though it just moved into the number one slot on The New York Times bestseller list, there is no agreement from book reviewers about its merits. I have read favorable and unfavorable reviews. I am so glad I went on my gut instinct and decided for myself. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
"The Girl On The Train" does not have a tortured and soulful detective at its center but instead a deeply flawed main character Rachel, who is also one of its narrators. Her life is a mess; unable to have children, she is depressed, divorced and an alcoholic. She has been fired from her job in London and, in an effort to keep the news from her roommate, continues to take the train into the city each day and return on the evening commute. This is a way to fill up her empty days as well as do some surreptitious drinking. She is obsessed with one part of the train commute that takes her past the house where she used to live with her ex-husband Tom. He now lives in the same house with his new wife Anna. Although she can't look at that house without pain, she focuses on another one, that of a beautiful young couple, Megan and Scott, who are frequently on their terrace and within viewing distance. Rachel fantasizes about their seemingly perfect lives. Until one day she sees something alarming and decides to get involved in solving a crime.
The problem with Rachel doing anything helpful, for herself or anyone else, is that she has frequent black-outs and a spotty memory due to drinking. She is the textbook unreliable narrator. Megan and Anna also tell their stories and the three narratives become inextricably connected. The job for the reader is to pick up clues along the way, evaluate three troubled and mostly unlikeable women and their male partners, and understand that some things are not what they seem. The ride to the conclusion is a thrilling one. I read the last few chapters on the edge of my seat.
The book feels contemporary in its focus on psychological and social issues such as depression, obsession, loneliness, domestic violence, and alcoholism. But it was the old-fashioned thrill ride of the suspense that kept me reading. I predict all of these elements will keep this book on the best seller list for a long time to come. Pick up a copy and let yourself escape into this gripping murder mystery; it's one you will remember for a long time. And go here to read a fascinating article about Paula Hawkins and how she came to write this book.