What a relief to know that I am not the only person who looks out of a train window and makes up stories for the inhabitants, that is how we meet our chief protagonist Rachel. Sitting on a train commuting to London the train routinely stops at lights in one particular stop. Rachel spots a couple sitting on their makeshift roof terrace and assigns them names, Jessie and Jason, and an idyllic life to match. As we get to know Rachel better we begin to understand why this essentially imaginary couple are so important to her. Rachel is unhappily divorced, living in a shared house and she’s an alcoholic but fear not this book while ensuring the consequences of her drinking are clear doesn’t play us endless scenes of her drinking herself into oblivion, it is far cleverer than that giving instead a taster of her morning and evening from a selection of days starting on 5 July 2013 and ending on 18 August of the same year.
When one routine morning she sees something that shatters her views of her imaginary couple and this event becomes an obsession as its significance is revealed. This is an ingeniously constructed story told not only from Rachel’s viewpoint, but those of two other women, Anna and Megan too. Megan’s story begins a year before Anna’s and although the relevance of her story isn’t immediately apparent I still wanted to know more about her. As the story progresses the way these three women’s lives are connected becomes apparent, and then the fun really starts with the action ramping up along with the tension. With the split in viewpoint perfectly timed so that the reader doesn’t feel that the switch has been purposely inserted to prolong the suspense, although it certainly does that.
I was hooked on this story, I trusted not one of the characters, I’ll be honest, none of them are people you’d aspire to be, rather they are people with issues, unfortunate personalities and they all picked up too many narcissistic genes from the gene pool, but the author manages to keep them the right side of caricatures, unfortunates among you may have met people just like them. The plot is full of sub-plots which almost compels you to judge these people and their behaviour which just served to fuel my suspicions about each and every one of them even more.
This is an accomplished debut written by an author who has exactly the right balance of ingredients for a psychological suspense novel, a well-plotted mystery, a handful of life-like characters, events revealed at the right time and an ending that didn’t disappoint.
I’d like to thank the publishers Transworld for allowing me to read a proof copy of this book ahead of publication date on 15 January 2015 and I sincerely hope Paula Hawkins has another book in the pipeline.