Have you ever gone people watching? Do you ever create stories for the strangers you see in public? If you do, what would happen if one day, one of them just disappeared? What would happen if you saw their face on the television, or in the newspaper, declaring that they had gone missing?
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins is built around exactly that. A woman, Rachel, takes the exact same commuter train in the morning, and the same one to return home. On the train, Rachel sees the same two people in their home, drinking coffee in the morning. She calls them Jess and Jason. But then? One day the woman she calls Jess is gone. Somehow, she knows that something bad happened, even before the news declares her a missing person. This news report, by the way, names her Megan and her husband, Scott. Rachel knows something—or thinks she does. But when she goes to the police, everything starts to unravel.
I personally believe that a mystery novel is the hardest to write. At the very least, this genre requires the most work to impress me. Whenever I read a mystery novel, I try to figure out who the culprit is while I read. It’s a dangerous game, doing something like this. You do run the risk of spoiling the ending for yourself. On the other hand, if it is well-written novel, you should still be surprised at the end. You should not be able to guess who the killer is.
My opinion of this novel is conflicted. It is the type of book where you end up disliking just about every one of the main characters at some point (and for the rest of the novel, once you do).
Rachel has issues. So does Scott. The detectives on the case, while they are doing their job, come off as unkind and extremely critical. Without spoiling too much of the novel, there are four other key players in this novel that have extreme issues. For the most part, these characters make you want to pull your hair out. Sure, there is some kind of sympathy, but at some point, it seems insane. Or it does to me.
I can read novels where I dislike the characters as long as the novel is well-written. The issue with this novel is that it isn’t so much. I found myself exacerbated with Rachel and her narration. You will understand if you read it.
I didn’t really guess who the killer was before the reveal. That, at least, gets this novel some points. But the reveal still fell flat for me. I didn’t the get shock that I have with previous mystery novels. I didn’t feel the heart-pumping adrenaline rush of those intense moments in any dramatic novel. I think that the writing could be improved—and I so wish I felt a significant amount of sympathy for at least one of the characters.
If you want to read a mystery novel, this one is fine. It’s not terrible, so I won’t say in a loud voice that you should never read it. I will say, though, that there are better ones out there if you care to give them a shot.