The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (Penguin [Random House], $26.95, 2015, 323 pages). Recipient of the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award
The Girl on the Train starts out fairly slowly but gains momentum exponentially so that you simply can’t put it down. Suggestion: do not begin reading this book at 10 pm on a weeknight.
Think Spiral or Spiderweb
Like an accelerating train, you read faster and faster as the terror and suspense climb in this instant New York Times bestseller. Lives spiral out of control.
Girl is perhaps the only book ever written where any one of four persons could have committed the crime very believably until the very end (of course, we also have Murder on the Orient Express  by Dame Agatha Christie but that is a different case). Reminiscent of 12 Angry Men (1957) the reader soon comes to realize that Girl is a modern-day Rear Window, that classic 1954 Hitchcock tale of mounting terror (or overactive imagination?) with Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr and Wendell Corey.
I can’t wait to see the movie: I wonder if it will be set in the US or England where the story actually takes place.
Remember slinkies, those expandable, levitatible precompressed helical springs that crawl down a staircase all by themselves if strategically set and sent on their way? Think slinky when reading Girl: the plots thicken, the plots interweave (think spiderweb even or a 4-year-old’s drawing) as the story is told by the three women over two years. Just as one woman’s diary-like entry seems to reach a climax, the author switches to another woman’s story, equally fascinating, equally boring (her life not the writing), equally crazy (why doesn’t she act? why doesn’t she see it coming? why doesn’t she go to the police?). However, enough chapters do advance the plot and the terror enough to whet your appetite to keep going. Like a slinky, the pace ebbs and flows.
Which Girl on Which Train?
First there was Girl on a Train by AJ Waines, a British author (2014), with 348 Amazon reviews - not bad. Then there was the best seller, The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, a British author (2015), with 38,372 reviews. Fortunately I checked out the right one (the 2015 Girl) from my public library but now I am interested in 'the other girl on the other train,' too!
What’s it All About?
A commuter concocts stories about the people who live beside the train tracks whom she sees twice a day and into whose houses she peers from a safe distance. A divorcee cannot leave her ex-husband and new wife alone. An over-active imagination or someone who must meddle in others’ affairs (and affairs is the operative word here) to feel wanted and needed and in control? A missing married woman. Hiding one’s being fired from a job by going to town every day (on the train, of course) at the same time as before. Too much alcohol. Trying to get pregnant. Playing around.
If all this intrigues you, Girl is for you! Even if it doesn’t, if you just love a good thriller, Girl is for you!
Now I have just one question for you, Dear Reader: Did you see it coming? When?