Most of us with long commutes occasionally dream of having something a bit more exciting happening. It's a very long time since I've had an exciting (and unexpectedly painful) commute. It also happened to be one of my shortest commutes, made even shorter when a lorry ran over me and my bicycle. Since then commutes have just been one long series of traffic jams with the odd memorable moment (usually animal connected) - the great golden retriever rescue, the missing alpaca, the mannequin in the trees, and the unexpectedly airborne swan being a few of the highlights.

Perhaps many of us dream of something more adventurous happening - where is Miss Marple and the 4.50 from Paddington when you need it? Paula Hawkins' The girl on the train had been compared to Christie's novel along with a good dollop of Hitchcock's Rear Window, but then there was a lot of hype about this novel in general, why should I believe it? Well, a 3 books for 2 offer in a supermarket persuaded me to give it a go.

It's actually worth believing the hype on this one, as it's a very decent psychological thriller. It reminded me a lot of the previously reviewed Gone without a trace by Mary Torjussen. In both cases the novels are told from particular points of view, and, as the reader discovers as the novel progresses, the narration is not always quite as reliable as you might expect.

The girl on the train starts from a simple premise - a lonely 20-something female commuter goes to work every day on the same train. Every day the train stops at the same signal, and Rachel is able to look into the back garden and windows of the houses that abut the line. One house particularly strikes her as she is drawn into the world of the seemingly happy couple who live there. Rachel's life is much less happy, divorced from the love of her life, she has become a friendless alcoholic, struggling to find any meaning in her life. The commute is especially poignant, as just a few doors down from Rachel's "happy couple" live Tom, Rachel's ex-, and his new wife and baby. Rachel might just have stayed an onlooker, but then Megan, one half of the happy couple, goes missing, and Rachel knows a secret about Megan....

The narration cleverly switches from Rachel to Megan to Anna (the ex-'s new wife), moving backwards and forwards in time. Coincidences abound (one too many for this reader, as I thought it made the job of working out who had committed the crime a bit too easy). This caveat apart, which is probably one for the dedicated crime reader, I thought it was a pretty good novel. Rachel is a likeable complex character, and if some of the other characters are not quite so well developed, this can be explained by the nature of the narrators and their own knowledge of the other characters (as in real life, we don't know everything about everyone, and even what we think we know may not be accurate).

I found this an enthralling compelling read, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good psychological thriller.

The novel had a star-studded ascent to the top debuting at no. 1 in the New York Times Fiction Best-Sellers list for 2015 where it stayed at the top for 13 weeks, also making frequent reappearances through 2015-16. Last year it was made into a film, which had a less starry experience, garnering less than enthusiastic reviews - the reviewer for the Huffington Post thought they might need a therapist after enduring two hours of "this monstrosity". I haven't seen the film (and don't have any intention of doing so), but while reading the book, and knowing that there was a film out there, I did wonder how they had managed to adapt it. It's a seriously awkward book, I would have thought to adapt, with 3 narrators, all of whom may be to a greater or lesser extent unreliable, and then there's the problem with time to contend with too. I'm impressed that anyone managed to adapt it, but not particularly surprised that it failed to work.

A lesson that any book lover already knows - if you're wondering whether to read the book or see the film, the book is nearly always better (except in the case of The Da Vinci code, but that's one of my most irritating books of all time, so anything had to be better, even an unusually wooden Tom Hanks!)


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