Author: Paula Hawkins– was a journalist born in Zimbabwe, has been a London resident since 1989, also wrote The Money Goddess: The Financial Guide for Women
Publisher: Riverhead Books, The Penguin Group
Rachel, who is a divorcee and a bit obsessive, and has a mind clouded by alcohol narrates the majority of this fast paced thriller. This is an English mystery written in unreliable narration form. Every twist and turn is given in bits and pieces to the reader by unreliable female minds that live in a constant dysfunctional state. Rachel, the main character is immediately intriguing with her obsessive thoughts and constant drinking. Beginning her days sober she takes the “slow train from Ashbury to Euston,” and by evening she’s on her way back sipping on gin and tonic, comparing the taste with her “first- ever holiday with Tom.” While the reader is not quite sure who Tom is in the beginning, it’s safe to assume he may be part of the reason for her drink, among many other drinks. Rachel takes the same train ride every day in to Euston for no reason other than to convince her roommate she is still employed and still functioning as a normal human, and can still make her rent payments on time.
In the second chapter, the reader finds out that “Number fifteen (Blenheim Raod), is much like the other houses along this stretch of track: a Victorian semi, two stories high, overlooking a narrow, well- tended garden that runs around twenty feed down towards some fencing…I know this house by heart” Rachel tells herself. As it turns out, the unit in reference is not Tom and Anna’s unit, although they live a few houses down, this one belongs to “Jason and Jess, they are the perfect, golden couple.” The couple, “Jason” and “Jess” she has imagined is as perfect as the beginning of her marriage to Tom. She imagines they have gloriously fashionable jobs, he a doctor, she an artist, go running on Sundays together, and take care of each other as healthy soul mates should do.
Rachel goes home in the evening to polish off entire bottles of wine, to wake up to whichever disaster she caused in her blackout in the morning. Sometimes she calls Tom, “the call log on my phone says I rang four times: at 11:02, 11:54, 12:09. Judging from the length of the calls, I left two messages. He may even have picked up, but I don’t remember talking to him.” To Rachel’s detriment she gets drunk and does things she doesn’t remember doing, or wouldn’t do if she were sober. This causes her to believe she’s done horrible things in the past, in her marriage, to Tom to make it all her fault their marriage ended. Her fantasies about “Jess” and “Jason” continue on until the day she sees “Jess” from the train with another man.
The reader then jumps inside of Megan’s mind and discovers her perspective to be far different from what Rachel has imagined. Megan, is married to Scott, also known as “Jess” and “Jason” in Rachel’s world. It’s discovered Scott and Megan’s marriage is not as happy as it appears, and that Megan is well aware that her problems need to be addressed before she loses her marriage. Megan, a former owner of an art gallery, gets bored easily and acts on impulse. She fills up a good part of her time babysitting Tom and Anna’s child while Anna gets rest. Anna is Tom’s new wife that we later find out he was cheating with before his divorce of Rachel. However, Megan quits rather abruptly one day, to Scotts disapproval, and decides to start going to therapy so she can start to deal with some of her issues such as the devastating loss of her brother Ben.
In twisting back in to Rachel’s mind, she can’t seem to get “Jess” and “Jason” off of her mind. She can’t believe “Jess” is cheating and thinks “Jason” ought to know. She’s not going to tell him, of course, but she still wants to get a glimpse of him from the train. The morning after she goes to get her glimpse of Jason she knows something has happened, “something happened, something bad. There was an argument. Voices were raised. Fists? I don’t know, I don’t remember. I went to the pub, I got on to the train, I was at the station, I was on the street. Blenheim Road. I went to Blenheim Road….my hair is matted with blood.” Rachel knows whatever happened on Blenheim Road, it was not good, but the blackout keeps her from remembering the details.
Later, on the train, Rachel reads the headline: “Concern For Missing Witney Woman.” Megan Hipwell of Blenheim Road has gone missing. Rachel is stunned and confused. The news of her missing sends Rachel in to a state of sheer obsession with that evening, her blackout, with Scott (Megan’s husband), and how all of the twisting and turning leads back to what happened on Blenheim Road the evening Megan Hipwell went missing. She feels it is the key information needed to solve the mystery. Rachel is rarely taken seriously by anyone, due to her problems, and even finds herself lying to police, but she knows in her heart and mind she should and can help. She just can’t seem to keep her nose out of it even though she’s been warned many times to stay away. The mystery of missing Megan Hipwell finally does get solved in one big train wreck one night, in Rachel’s own backyard.
The story is written masterfully with so many jumps starting with Rachel’s narration and perspective, jumping on to Megan’s, and then even Anna, who only wants a life free of Rachel’s constant harassment from the stupid ex-wife that can’t get over anything and stays drunk. It’s learned through each perspective how a bit of thought and intention leads to the many betrayals and tragedies discovered in each of their lives. It’s learned and discovered that even the person with the best of intentions tells themselves lies, tells other’s lies, and believes the lies they are told. The sociopaths in the story have done a great job of gas lighting their victims and thereby the reader as well, right up until the end is it figured out who could have done it. This is a wonderfully fast paced, addictive, can’t put it down, psychological thriller and hopefully the first of many from Paula Hawkins.