Rachel has been having a hard time the past year or two. Her husband Tom left her for another woman, and her excessive drinking lost her her job. She is so ashamed of this that she pretends to go to work every morning on the train so that her flatmate won’t know.
On the train each day she passes her old neighborhood, and she spots a couple living in a house four doors down from where she used to live. She fantasizes that the two are a happy couple and even gives them names. But one day as she passes by, she sees the wife kissing another man.
That weekend, the wife, whose name is Megan, disappears. Throughout the book, some chapters are written from Megan’s point of view, starting a year before and moving quickly to the present. Immediately, it becomes clear that Megan is a woman with secrets.
Rachel goes to the police with her information about a lover, mainly because she knows they will look first at Megan’s husband Scott, and Rachel doesn’t think he did anything. But Rachel’s credibility is soon destroyed by Tom and his new wife Anna, who let the police know she’s been stalking them when she drinks too much.
In fact, the night Megan disappeared, Rachel was in the neighborhood trying to see Tom. But she was drunk and only has a hazy memory of being helped up by a red-haired man she sometimes sees on the train. After the incident, she awakened at home with a gash in her head that she can’t remember getting.
Rachel can’t seem to keep herself from inserting herself into the investigation, even lying to Scott that she and Megan were friends. Of course, it will all fall apart. The reader wonders, did Rachel herself kill Megan?
This novel has been compared to Gone Girl after that novel’s great success. I realize that is a marketing ploy, but it actually had the effect of making me avoid The Girl on the Train for a while. That said, I think a better comparison is with the novels of Sophie Hannah, which feature troubled heroines who are usually being gaslighted by someone.
As such, it is an effective thriller, difficult to guess. As Rachel slowly pulls her act together, we get to like her. I liked this novel well enough, but Gillian Sharp is great. I’ve admired her work since well before Gone Girl became popular. So, no comparison.