Not a nice girl on the train, but a really good thriller

There’s not really much to like about Rachel, the girl on the train in Paula Hawkins’s new 9780857522320-1-edition.default.original-1thriller. Her life’s a mess. No job. A broken marriage. No real home. And way too much booze. Unable to admit to herself or her friends that she has been fired, she maintains her daily train commute staring out of the window with a supply of tinned gin and tonic for company.

As the train passes the back of her former home, where ex-husband Tom and new wife Anna now live, she fixates on the beautiful young couple she sees daily in the garden of a neighbouring house. They have the perfect life that should have been hers. When she reads in the newspaper that the woman has mysteriously gone missing, and that the husband is a suspect, she goes to the police. She has to help. Surely they can see what a wonderful husband she knows him to be. But that brings her back in contact with Tom and Anna, and ups the ante in the campaign of harassment she has been inflicting on them.

Girl on the Train, has a tingly Hitchcockian feel to it. Tension is raised in carefully planned and articulated steps. And the twist at the end works, unlike, in my view, the one at the end of Gillian Flynn’s blockbuster Gone Girl. Hawkins took a risk creating such an unsympathetic central character as Rachel. But it has paid off handsomely.

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is published by Random House Australia

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