The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Book Review

I bought a copy of Paula Hawkins’s psychological  thriller “The Girl on the Train” after I watched this movie trailer on YouTube. It’s an exciting trailer for a movie starring Emily Blunt, one of my favorite actresses. It definitely has a “Gone Girl” feel to it.

I had very high expectations, which the source material did not meet. The movie trailer, the book’s being called the next “Gone Girl”over hyped the book for me.

Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) is a 32-year-old alcoholic who rides the commuter train at the same time every morning and night. On most mornings, the commuter train temporarily stops at a suburban neighborhood. Rachel has made a habit of observing a particular couple breakfasting on their deck during these routine train stops. She’s given them names: Jess and Jason. She fantasizes about their life as the perfect suburban couple.

This suburban neighborhood Rachel obsesses over is the same neighborhood she used to live in with her ex-husband Tom Watson (Justin Theroux).

Jess and Jason live in a flat along the same row as and identical to the flat Rachel used to live in.

Tom still lives in this flat with his new wife Anna Watson (Rebecca Ferguson).

Jess, real name: Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), is nanny to Tom and Anna’s child.

One day, Rachel sees something odd during her usual morning commute. Megan is with a man who isn’t her husband. She kisses the man who isn’t her husband. That’s when everything changes.

Soon after, Megan Hipwell disappears.

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“The Girl on a Train” is a fascinating read. The story is told from the point of view of three women: Rachel, Anna, and Megan.

Primarily, the story is viewed through the eyes of Rachel, an alcoholic who suffers from blackouts when drunk. Her unreliability as a narrator adds to the story’s mystery and tension.

It isn’t just Rachel who is messed up though. Every character in this novel is terrible and unreliable in different ways. They are a reflection of how flawed humans are in real life.

The novel begins slow, but by the middle of it my mind was abuzz trying to solve the mystery of Megan’s disappearance.

It’s comparison to “Gone Girl” got me thinking that maybe Megan was alive and plotting revenge on her husband Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans). Perhaps Rachel, envious of Megan’s seemingly perfect marriage and angry that she cheated on Scott, murdered Megan during one of her drunken blackouts. Or maybe it’s as simple as Scott killing Megan because of her infidelity.

But what about Anna and Tom, surely they were involved with the disappearance in some way?

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All aboard the hype train for “the thriller that shocked the world”!

Unfortunately, I figured out who the killer was three-quarters through the novel. This wasn’t a deal breaker for me. I solved the mystery and felt proud of my accomplishment.

But this novel’s big reveal had no where near as strong an impact as “Gone Girl” did, and that was a huge letdown.

There were also too much men being violent towards helpless women in this novel. I really wanted Amy Dunne to come and intervene on the women’s behalf!

“The Girl on the Train” is a smart and well-written psychological thriller, unfortunately tame when compared to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” I’d go as far as saying that Paula Hawkin’s debut novel pales in comparison to Flynn’s other works, particularly “Dark Places” and “Sharp Objects.”

It suffers from over hype, though I expect the movie will be as good as advertised.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

4 Beans
4 beans out of 5
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Wayward Pines Season 1 – TV Series Review

Wayward Pines (2015) is mystery, thriller, and science fiction television series based on the Wayward Pines trilogy of novels by Blake Crouch. The show was created by Chad Hodge and produced by veteran filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan.

The first season centers on Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) a U.S. Secret Service agent on his way to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents in the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. On the way, Ethan and his partner get into a car accident. Ethan wakes up hospitalized inside Wayward Pines. Soon, he finds himself unable to leave the town.

His investigating reveals that one of his partners is dead, while the other—his former lover Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino)—is alive and married. Why has she settled down in this town, and not reported back to the U.S. Secret Service. And why is she so afraid of speaking with him? “They’re watching us,” she says.

Soon, Ethan discovers Wayward Pines is more than a strange small town. For one, it’s surrounded by an electrified fence. Any attempt at escape is punished by a public execution known as a “reckoning,” carried out by Arnold Pope (Terrence Howard), the town sheriff.

Everyone in this town is acting strange, one way or another. All of them seem to be keeping secrets from Ethan who continues searching for the truth.

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Meanwhile, Ethan’s wife Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) and son Ben (Charlie Tahan), drive to Wayward Pines to investigate Ethan’s mysterious disappearance. They too get into a car accident and wake up hospitalized and trapped in Wayward Pines.

Although I love watching small town television mysteries like Broadchurch (2013-) and Harper’s Island (2009), I was a bit skeptical about Wayward Pines, given M. Night Shymalan’s track record as a filmmaker. I love his earlier work, but his more recent films keep getting worse and worse. The Last Airbender (2010), for example.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by how good the series’s pilot episode was—and M. Night both produced and directed that episode! Maybe M. Night has found his true calling as a television series producer? But that pilot episode convinced me to give the series a chance, and I’m delighted that I did.

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Among the many stellar cast members of Wayward Pines (Source: 1)

Every episode of the first season gives off an ominous vibe. There is never a dull moment throughout the series, and the suspense built at a steady pace.

The cast was also excellent. I was especially terrified by Melissa Leo’s portrayal of Nurse Pam. Even the secret service agent Ethan was more afraid of her than he was of Sheriff Pope, who carried out the public killings in Wayward Pines. Another standout was Megan Fisher who played Hope Davis, the former hypnotherapist now principal of Wayward Pines Academy.

Science fiction elements are introduced in later episodes. This may surprise viewers who were expecting a usual small town mystery show. However, I very much enjoy the sci-fi genre. The sci-fi elements were a welcome addition for me.

VERDICT: Wayward Pines puts a sci-fi spin on the small town television mystery  genre, and is a thrill to watch. It’s also a welcome back to form for M. Night Shyamalan. If you’re a sci-fi fan searching for an intelligent and entertaining television mystery I strongly recommend watching season 1 of Wayward Pines.

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Definitely one television event you shouldn’t miss! (Source: 1)

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

5 Beans out of 5
5 Beans out of 5