Book Review: “The Girl on the Train,” by Paula Hawkins

None of the characters in this runaway best-seller are likable. There’s Rachel Watson, the protagonist, who is a bitter, unemployed thirty something woman. Rachel is obsessed with her ex-husband. She rides the train to London each day because she cannot bear to tell her friend and landlord that she lost her job. When a young woman goes missing, Rachel makes a series of incredibly dumb decisions in an effort to find out what happened to her. And she’s the best of the lot.

Then there is Megan Hipwell, the woman whose disappearance triggers a highly publicized police search. Earlier Rachel observed Megan and her husband, whom she dubbed Jess and Jason, on the terrace as a loving couple during a signal stop each day, and she fantasized about them as the ideal couple. They are anything but. Megan is a drifter who got into prostitution and drugs as a youth and has a dark secret. And Scott has issues, too.

And finally there is Anna Boyd, a cold seductress who steals Rachel’s husband, Tom Watson (I couldn’t help but think of the professional golfer). Anna is calculating and hateful toward Rachel, though with good reason as Rachel is prone to stalking her and showing up drunk at the house where she and Tom once lived.

Suspects abound as the hunt for Megan progresses. There is Scott, who is jealous and occasionally violent. There is Megan’s therapist, with whom she had a fling. And there is somebody else in her life whose existence is not revealed to the reader until late in the story.

Paula Hawkins has crafted a tightly woven mystery that gains steam as it progresses. The reader won’t want to put this one down. She leaves little clues along the way, inviting the reader to guess who the real killer is after Megan’s body is discovered. I had it all wrong, which is the sign of a skillful mystery writer.

I would recommend this book, though the writer didn’t make me care enough about any of the characters, save for Rachel.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Book Review: “The Girl on the Train,” by Paula Hawkins

  1. Interesting, how some few writers can make you want to finish a story, even when none of the characters are appealing. Of course, there are books filled with terrible characters that I care terribly about, too.

    • Good point. I listened to this book while recovering from eye surgery. I’m not sure if my opinion would have been different if I read it. While listening, though, I couldn’t believe the dumb decisions Rachel was making. At the same time, I wanted to find out what was going to happen. That’s the skill the author brought to the story.

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