THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

5/5 stars

  • Member of the Twister Hall of Fame
  • Author: Paula Hawkins
  • Published January 13th 2015 by Riverhead Books

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The Girl on the Train: A Novel Amazon Great Kindle Deal!

This story is actually told from three women’s points of view. For all intents and purposes, you will only remember Rachel. She’s the main character and her drunken memories help to create, dare I say it?  The all-time MOST UNRELIABLE  NARRATOR in literary history.  That’s why I love this book so much!  Well, one of the reasons. Actually, every character in this book is unreliable. Who can you trust? NO ONE. Put the clues together and solve this mystery yourself.

The new label being thrown around these days is “domestic noir” and I believe describes this sub-genre much better than “psychological thriller”or “chick” noir (ick).  This is the tribe of books I have embraced. And millions others. We may be in danger of overdosing on domestic noir now.

The novelist, Julia Crouch, described the subgenre in her blog in 2013. “In a nutshell, Domestic Noir takes place primarily in homes and workplaces, concerns itself largely (but not exclusively) with the female experience, is based around relationships and takes as its base a broadly feminist view that the domestic sphere is a challenging and sometimes dangerous prospect for its inhabitants.”

Paula Hawkins set the domestic noir scene on fire with this book. We had all been waiting (2 years!) for someone to replace Gillian Flynn on the bestseller list and she did it. Girl on the the Train is a much more delicious variation on the textbook standard that Gone Girl had established. I think it is an easier, faster read than Gone Girl and not as cynically, bitterly dark and depressing as Gone Girl.

The highly anticipated movie version of The Girl on the Train left me deflated. I thought The_Girl_on_The_Trainit was shot in such a slick manner, way too glossy while the book was unabashedly gritty. I couldn’t get past that! Oh, Hollywood. What are ya gonna do about it?  I love Emily Blunt as Rachel. But, the movie is a miss. Read the book.

BTW: the Audible version is outstanding.

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WE WERE LIARS

5/5 Stars

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

When I picked this book up to read, I knew nothing about it. I didn’t even realize it was a young adult book. That didn’t matter. I read it in one sitting. It is sophisticated and modern and you will not stop reading until you reach the surprise ending. It is so compelling,  I have to include it in my Twister Hall of Fame. Just don’t let anyone spoil it for you by talking about. SHHHHhhhhhhh.

AMAZON link We Were Liars

EMMA IN THE NIGHT

 3/5 Stars

Author: Wendy Walker
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: August 8th 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Two girls go missing. Three years later, only one comes home. What happened to Emma?

One night, teenage sisters Cass and Emma disappear from their affluent, suburban home. Three years later, with just the clothes on her back and no evidence of where she’s been, Cass returns – without her sister. She talks of kidnapping and isolation, and a mysterious island where the two were held. But her story has holes – and it’s up to forensic psychologist Dr. Abby Winter to find the missing sister, Emma, and uncover what really happened in their tortured past. The truth will shock even Cass herself – a tale of fear, family and what it will take to survive her own past.

Emma and Cass have a strange relationship with their mother. For starters, they are required to call her Mrs. Martin, not mom. WHAT? That will get your suspicious mind working overtime to get to the bottom of this story.  Mrs. Martin is a narcissistic, self-involved mother and she’s not the only one in this dysfunctional family that has some psychological issues. The two sisters have an overprotective half-brother, a weepy-wimpy father, an out-of-control stepbrother and a stepfather that continually crosses personal boundaries within the family. WHEW! I’d run the hell away from that house too!

When Cass returns home from being missing for three years, she is alone. What happened to Emma? The FBI are all over the case and continue to grill Cass with a forensic psychologist, Abby, leading the interviews. The entire story is told in alternating views: a first person narrative coming from Cass and a third person narrative from Abby. Coincidentally, Abby the expert, grew up with a sister, too, and their own mother was a textbook narcissist. She knows firsthand what Cass and Emma may have been dealing with at home.

This is not as much of a suspense story as it is a overly long definition of the narcissistic personality type. I learned a bit more than I ever thought I would about the disorder. For starters, the disorder has been overlooked by the courts and by society when it is a woman suffering from it. And especially overlooked when that woman is a mother.

Normally I love psychological suspense. But, if I want to study a disorder, I will pick up my old psychology textbook. Please, SHOW me the actions and develop her character into a more layered person.  Showing is so much more exciting to read in a fictional story than telling.  A book that comes to mind for expertly illustrating a maternal narcissist in action is MOTHER, MOTHER by Karen Zalickas. A biting and disturbing character if ever there was one.

This book has all my favorite elements in a mystery. A BEAUTIFUL, INTRIGUING COVER, the semi-surprise ending, unreliable narrators, and a psychological disorder at the heart of the story.  As much as I wanted to love it, the book fell flat for me. The pages did not turn fast. My mind was wandering Unknownduring the long descriptions of the island that Cass gives the FBI upon her return home. She relates her experiences in a straight monotone manner (for a reason, as you will find out) and it just reads that way for most of the book. I was interested to find out what happened to Emma, but my gosh, it was a slow go.

AMAZON link  Emma in the Night: A Novel

THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS

 3/5 Stars

  • Published July 11th 2017 by Scribner
  • Author: Michael Robotham

Let’s just put it out there: this is no Tana French or Paula Hawkins psychological thriller.  Sorry. Keeping’ it real. Waaah waah.

Never mind the claims invariably to head the jacket reviews, there is NOT a Gone Girl ending twist in THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS.  However, this book is one heck of a suspenseful page turner (and how about that book cover? LOVE). I read it so fast, my husband couldn’t believe it when I said I was done.  The chapters are very short and are told from the different characters’ POV. I think just under 4 hours of reading an entire novel is indeed a record for me.

The main characters, Meghan and Agatha, are not necessarily likable, but very interesting. I want to know more about them! Sadly, there isn’t much psychological speculation delved into in the book.  Most of the story is written in first person dialogue and the dialogue is written so realistically, you will find yourself hooked from the first page.

If you, like millions of readers, including myself, adored The Girl on the Train, you will pick up on the same atmospheric feel with THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS.  I love that British vibe! There is a lot of train riding, a little obsessive spying done by Agatha (perfect name), and teapots and biscuits are frequently mentioned throughout the book.

If I could presume to subtitle this book, it would be more aptly called Girl On the Train-Lite. It is the perfect book to carry down to the pool and read quickly even if you are frequently interrupted or distracted by your kids, you will have no trouble jumping right back into the plot.

The most interesting part of this story is truly the character of Agatha. She is somewhat of a deliciously unreliable narrator on her chapters (the chapters go back and forth between Meghan and Agatha), you are never quite sure if she telling us the truth.  I wavered between sympathy, disgust, and sadness for her character.  I do so wish there were more layers to the characters and the plot, that would definitely have earned a four star from me.

This book has a publication date for July 11, 2017.  If you are looking for a light suspenseful story, this is perfect.
Available now Amazon U.S.   >      The Secrets She Keeps: A Novel