Mysterious Book Report The Girl On The TrainThe Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Riverhead Books/Penguin Group (USA) LLC, $26.95, 325 pages, ISBN 978-1-59463-366-9

We’ve just returned from the annual Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association Trade Show in Denver, Colorado. It’s a yearly affair with 70 or 80 publishers, several hundred bookstore owners, their employees and managers. It features thousands of new books, authors, lectures and seminars about what’s hot, what’s not, trends in the bookstore retailing arena and the current state of the publishing industry in general. It’s always an exciting, educational and exhausting, non-stop three day affair. On display from publishers large and small were the new books for the fall and holiday seasons in every imaginable category from anthologies to zoology. In our area of interest—crime fiction, thrillers and mysteries—two books were standouts, gathering special attention from everyone. We’ll review one this week and the second one next week.

The Girl on the train, by Paula Hawkins is due for release on 15 January 2015, and the movie rights have already been purchased by DreamWorks Studios. It’s getting an extensive national marketing campaign and will be one of the most talked about books in the coming year. Why? Because it’s one of the most psychologically thrilling and intense murder mysteries you will ever in your life read. Alfred Hitchcock is probably turning over in his grave with envy because he won’t get to film this one . . .

In it, a woman named Rachael takes a train into London every morning of the work week. Each day, it’s the same train, at the same time, she sits in the same seat, and the train stops at the exact same time and place—day after day. The sheer boredom of it is mind-numbing and soul-searing. So much so, that Rachael makes up an imaginary life and name for a woman she spots drinking coffee on the balcony of her house, which is one of a row of houses near the tracks where the train stops day after day. Most times Rachael sees a man with the woman and she imagines a life for the pair of them. Then, one morning Rachael sees a different man on the balcony, engaged in a passionate kiss with the woman. A few days later the woman, whose real name is Megan, has disappeared without a trace. Rachael’s imagination runs wild with possibilities . . . then a neighbor named Anna enters the narrative . . . and from her perspective it’s revealed that Rachael is an unreliable witness, one who has a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy, who may in fact be dangerous. The rest of the novel unfolds like an onion, one layer at a time, as it’s told in first-person narratives by Rachael, Anna and Megan. Each chapter, and almost every page, ratchets up the tension as it reveals some exciting, surprising new element to the plot until everyone is the potential killer, and the real murderer lurks in plain sight, right in their midst as Rachael tries to sort out which of her memories are real and which are imaginary. The Girl on the Train will keep you guessing right up to the end and so engrossed in it’s pages that you won’t know if there’s a train wreck in your own front yard! It lives up to its potential in every way, and is one of the most outstanding debut novels in a long, long time. You’ll be sorry if you miss it.


John Dwaine McKenna