Wednesday, July 8, 2015

GIRL ON THE TRAIN a Devious Psychological Mystery

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a devious psychological mystery that shifts through a series of plot twists, first pointing in one direction, then changing course again.

The plot structure is elaborate. Events move in chapters told in the first person by three alternating narrators --- Rachel, Anna, and Megan. An added complication is that Megan's chapters take place in a time period a few months earlier than the chapters narrated by Rachel and Anna.

Rachel Watson is the central character, a troubled alcoholic with memory blackouts, who is unhappily divorced and jobless. She rides commuter trains to fill her empty life. Other characters circle around her confused thoughts. Tom Watson, her ex-husband. Anna Watson, Tom's new wife. Scott and Megan Hipwell, former neighbors at Rachel's old home. Dr. Kamel Abdic, a psychiatrist.

When a key character goes missing, followed by the discovery of a body, the truth of what happened can only be worked out through the competing narrative accounts of Rachel, Anna, and Megan. The answers build piece by piece toward the startling exposure of the killer.

The Girl on the Train is a smartly written, compelling psychological mystery read. It's a much more satisfying novel than last year's similar genre novel, Gone Girl, with its manipulative, misleading plot, unreliable narrators, and flagrantly over-written style by the author.

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