For someone who has never been a huge lover of gritty crime or even psychological thrillers, It takes a lot for me to like what I often find overburdened with stereotype and clichés. So then, how does this much-acclaimed book fare? Does it tick all the right boxes?
It is, as the title suggests, a book about a girl and a train. Well, yes, but that isn’t quite true. Yes, there is a train upon which a character travels but there is more than one girl, there are three. Rachel, Anna and Megan. Even the train isn’t really featured much as there isn’t any one single train. It is the track, and the females, that link the narrative. You see the track which carries the train passes by the houses, homes in fact, where the three live or have lived. It is here where the past and the present collide. But it is the track by which we pass the homes and therefore the histories of those living within.
It is by that conceit that we get to see events, recalled and recollected by the three protagonists that shunts the engine out of the station before sending it hurtling along at some speed to its inevitable conclusion.
We have Rachel who sits centre stage as we learn of her marriage to Tom, Tom’s affair, the breakdown of the relationship, her turning to alcohol and her subsequent descent into personal hell. There is Anna who had the affair with Tom and who then fell pregnant before marrying and moving into Tom and Rachel’s old house. Finally, there’s Megan, a neighbour to Tom and Anna. Megan is married to Scott. A head of steam gathers when Megan is found dead. Suspicions rise as to who her killer might be.
Paula Hawkins, formerly a journalist, piles on the tension as she plays Rachel’s story, her forgetful memory that shifts shadows into ominous corners as Rachel seeks to remember why she arrived home so battered and bruised, against the counter telling, shared perspectives of both Anna and Megan. By this neat stylistic trick, the reader finds them self willingly immersed in a story that Chinese whispers events building them up as potential clues and motives. The tension fidgets between one to the other with no clear idea, only elusive possibilities, of who the murderer is.
So then, does it tick those boxes? Absolutely..