Rachel Watson takes the 8:04 train every morning to London. The highlight of her trip is when the train stops at signals, and she can catch a glimpse of the couple that she has christened Jess and Jason, seemingly living the life that she wants – a life that she once had. But then on day, she sees “Jess” in her flat with another man. And then the news reports that “Jess” – or Megan, as she is actually called, has disappeared. Disappeared on the same night that Rachel was in the street that the couple live on.
For on the same street lives Rachel’s ex-husband Tom and his new wife Anna, a relationship that Rachel struggles to accept. But she cannot remember anything about that night as she had succumbed to one of her regular battles with the demon alcohol. All that she remembers is that she woke up the next morning with blood on her hands…
And welcome to the first instalment of “Let’s See What All The Fuss Is About”, an occasional dive into a book that has dominated the best-seller charts, the newspaper column inches and book awards. For a while, The Girl On The Train was all some people could talk about. So now it’s time for me to have a look…
Well, after much thought, my considered opinion of the book is basically “meh”. Or, to use a few more words, “Was that it?”
A while ago, I reviewed Before I Go To Sleep, a book with a similar reputation and that one, I felt, deserved it. It had a genuinely clever and creepy idea at the heart of the tale, so I was hoping for something similar here.
Never mind… maybe next time. The problems here are multiple, but let’s consider the good first. I did enjoy the writing style and while some people have criticised the three unsympathetic narrators, I didn’t have that problem. I was convinced by Rachel’s and Anna’s actions and while I thought Anna needed a little more explanation for some of her deeds, it made sense.
But the notion of an unreliable narrator is a tricky one, and it needs more than just a character who can’t remember what happened one night. You’re expecting a great trick or at least a heart-churning surprise, but at the end of the day, the villain of the piece is extraordinarily obvious (to me at least) and has little motivation beyond being an ruthless unpleasant person with low morals. I can think of two other endings that would have made sense and carried much more weight. Certain parts seem rushed as well – Rachel’s memories seem to return for no particular reason, and the explanation of her actions that night are disappointing. And surely… no, that’s a spoiler. So the person in question must be stupid as well as murderous.
But if this is the sort of book that you enjoy, it is well-written so I’d grudgingly recommend it. But if you’re a mystery reader who wants a twisty-turny thriller that constantly makes you look the wrong way, then I can’t really suggest you read this one. And as I’m in the latter camp myself, then I’m afraid that this is Not Recommended.