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Review: "The Girl on the Train," by Paula Hawkins


This book, published two years ago, got a lot of hype, a lot of press, and a lot of sales. The author's first book, she delivers a somewhat loose, but very satisfying murder mystery. It paints an intense picture of alcoholism, loss and a series of broken lives that continue to spiral downward until hitting bottom has no conclusion since the bottom simply moves lower and lower. Told from the perspectives of the three main female characters there are really no winners here and our erstwhile heroine is one of the most broken characters in recent literature to be the center and heart of a story. We empathize with her at the same time that we feel as if she is hapless, negative and almost unredeemable. The "mystery" aspect kept me off balance throughout and I seriously cast my vote as to the identity of the murderer first for one character, than later to another, and back again,...and, no perhaps it's this person. That's what every good mystery writer attempts to do and Hawkins has pulled it off. At times the book has a disjointed flow and making heads and tails of who is connected, related, married, divorced or sleeping with each other gets to be like an advanced game of mystery Jenga. I am not the most interested reader of murder mysteries and detective stories. In fact, if you look at a couple of my previous reviews I have been sorely disappointed recently and these burns over the years have generally kept me away from these types of books. That's not the case with The Girl On The Train. Coincidentally, I read the book in anticipation of viewing the film which has just been released. Emily Blunt is especially effective in the title role, and others follow suit. It's translation to MetroNorth and upstate New York somehow lessens the impact of the story. Certainly, the environment is more moneyed and patrician. The film appears to be brighter as well. The original is set in Britain, outside of London, in a setting that appears darker, more ominous and more threatening. Still this is a well done film born of an even better book. Both are worth a read/view.