Unlike a lot of people, my issue with this book was not its reliance on an unreliable narrator; I can appreciate and even enjoy a character that doesn’t have it together, and Rachel, the narrator and the eponymous girl on the train, is nothing if not a mess. Sometimes the messier a character is, the more interesting their story. I have a love/hate relationship with villains and I often find them the most interesting characters. Rachel isn’t a villain, nor is she particularly interesting. Hawkins establishes early on that Rachel is on a downward spiral: divorced, unemployed, and a floundering alcoholic, she wants nothing more than to be a part of life, even if that life has nothing to do with her. So when she sees something suspicious and then learns of a connected disappearance, it’s not a surprise that she gets involved in the investigation. The victim, a woman named Megan, lives on her old street, a few doors down from her ex-husband and his new wife. This, of course, lends itself to several levels of complication in the story… but none of them are particularly compelling. This was a fast read, but that doesn’t mean that it was an absorbing one. Instead, it was glossy and easy to skim over. When the reveal came, it felt as if I was sitting at the finishing line, waiting for the characters to catch up.
A number of reviews have compared The Girl on the Train to Gone Girl, but I think this is a mistake, a simplistic sorting of the two into a sort of “female thriller” subgenre. None of the characters in this book, and certainly none of the “twists” are as clever as what Gillian Flynn achieves.