The Girl on the Train is a murder mystery told from three viewpoints. Every day, Rachel takes the train into London and due to a faulty signal her train is often delayed right next to the back gardens of Blenheim Road. From her seat on the train, Rachel sees Megan and Scott, a young married couple, going about their lives and imagines to herself what their lives must be like. She also sees Tom and Anna, her ex-husband and his new wife.
Let me start by saying what I thought was good about it. I liked the characterisation. Rachel, Anna and Megan were interesting women. Superficially they were all very different - the drunk, the mother, the ditz - but when you looked a bit closer you could see the similarities between all three, which, in the final denouement, made a lot of sense. The writing, too, was very good. The author managed to keep her three narrators’ voices very distinct and there was a nice narrative flow.
My biggest problem was with the plot itself. The pace was incredibly slow and the twists were fairly predictable. It wasn’t creepy. I had to keep reminding myself that I was reading a murder mystery. I never felt shocked. I was never on the horns of a dilemma, wondering who could possibly have done it. Instead, I found myself spending 350 pages vaguely waiting for something to happen. There was an awful lot of repetition, especially in Rachel’s commentary. Her depression over the collapse of her marriage, her alcoholism, her inability to have children and her overwhelming obsession with her ex-husband are the major plot points and the murder itself just seems to be sidelined at times.
I think the main problem was that this book needed more tension. I’ve read a few murder mysteries in my time, and the best ones have you constantly wondering. Who did it? Who’s going to be bumped off next? Who can you trust? The best murder mystery I’ve ever read - And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - was as creepy as hell and had me absolutely hooked for the two days it took me to read it. On the odd occasion I managed to put it down, I still found myself thinking about it. Unfortunately, with The Girl on the Train, I had to keep forcing myself to pick it up.
I suppose one of the problems was that it’s almost impossible to read a book in a vacuum; almost always we’ve had a book recommended to us, we read blurbs and reviews. I’d seen so many outstanding write-ups of The Girl on the Train that maybe I just set my expectations too high. The biggest surprise I got was a few pages from the end, and by that time I’m afraid I’d given up caring.