Similar to my review of All the Light We Cannot See, I’m going to break the mold with a unenthusiastic review of a highly popular book: The Girl on the Train wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. For a mystery/thriller, I was neither mystified nor thrilled. I was entertained, and for that, I gave the book three stars on GoodReads.
The story toggles back and forth between three women – Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Rachel is our primary girl, a divorced alcoholic who rides the same train each morning and evening to her faux job, making sure to eavesdrop through the window on a particular couple at one of the stops. She’s named them “Jason and Jess” because it’s cute and endearing, fitting of how she thinks this adorable couple is in real life.
Except that “Jess” is really Megan and, suddenly, she’s gone missing. Eventually, she’s found dead. Scott, her husband, is suspect No. 1.
Anna is Rachel’s replacement, the ex-husband’s new wife. She and Tom have a baby and Rachel doesn’t handle it well. Furthermore, Tom and Anna live in the same neighborhood as Scott and Megan. Linking the couples further, Megan worked briefly as a nanny for Tom and Anna. It’s both convenient and inconvenient.
The Girl on the Train is all about solving the mystery of who killed Megan, and Rachel, since she’s drunk and obsessive, has involved herself in the case. She is both a nuisance and a help. She is both observant and blind.
It’s a clever little plot, and the three points of view keep the narrative moving quickly. However, about a quarter of the way in, I’d figured it out. I knew who killed Megan and I knew why. The mystery then became about how the truth unraveled. Towards the end, as I saw the dots connecting in Rachel’s mind, I thought, “Surely not. There will be a twist here soon.”
But there wasn’t.
It’s not a bad book, but it was predictable. I didn’t like that I knew the ending. I wanted to be delightfully surprised, but instead, I was like, “Hmm. Okay.”
Interestingly, the ending of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the book that was so tedious and full of tangents, had a stellar ending that I didn’t see coming at all. And this week I’m reading The Likeness (Tana French) and I can’t finish it fast enough because I’m completely transfixed by all the possibilities. It’s a real thriller, a true WhoDunIt that I cannot figure out.
For me, that’s the sort of mystery I prefer. I want to be blindsided and spellbound, and The Girl on the Train just didn’t do it for me.