Maybe I’m the last book reviewer to read this book by Paula Hawkins, but better to read it late than never at all! I almost never read mysteries or thrillers because they aren’t my cup of tea (give me dragons and a woman with a sword and I’m happy). But my mom read this one and it hooked her, so I read the inside cover at work last weekend and couldn’t resist giving it a go.
Here’s the text that got me: “Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life as she sees it is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?” — via Indiebound
WHAT DID SHE SEE?? Amiright? Compared to the last mystery/thriller thing I read (Gone Girl) this was SO MUCH BETTER. I wanted to like Gone Girl as much as everyone else did, but I was too disturbed to like it from start to finish. This one contained similar themes, but with an ending that didn’t have me roaring with rage.
I feel like there isn’t much that one can review without accidentally spoiling something. The beauty of a novel like this is that the reader goes in knowing almost nothing, and the author unfolds the story with surprise after surprise. So I don’t want to give too much away. I’ll just talk about the things I liked in general terms. First up: the characters. I didn’t love all of them (because you aren’t supposed to), but I certainly did like Rachel. Rachel is an every-woman’s woman. Life dealt her some pretty sucky blows, and unlike the unrealistic heroines of many popular novels, she does not have her shit together. To be real, she’s a wreck. And yet, she still ends up being the one who sorts through the tangled threads of the mystery first, all while being judged appallingly by the people who do have their shit together. So take that, haters!
Second: plot, obviously. It was a whirlwind. I couldn’t and didn’t want to put it down. I had to know what happened and who made it happen. There are multiple characters with enough sketch-factor to keep things interesting from beginning to end. And I wanted to know what Rachel would do. There were several places in the novel where I groaned out loud, and I might have even said, “Oh, my god, you didn’t, again?!” Maybe.
Third: structure. There are at least three different women who tell the story from their point of view. Each of them keeps her own secrets, has her own flaws, harbors a dark side that she hides behind a veneer of suburban polish (except Rachel, who has completely lost all semblance of polish). The perspectives also jump about in time a bit, so you have to keep an eye on that. I thought it was a clever way of doing things because you get each woman’s perspective, rather than the perspective of one and a whole bunch of speculation about the inner thoughts and hidden activities of the others.
I think you will like this book. Yeah, you. Like I said, thrillers are not usually my thing, but this is one that bridges the genre divide and is smart and interesting enough to keep readers of all genre-preferences interested.