Tag Archives: mystery

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

27 Feb

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  Riverhead Books, January 2015

  • ISBN-10: 1594633665
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594633669
  • Thriller, psychological thriller, mystery, suspense

The plot

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Rachel takes the same train each day on her commute to and from London.  Each day she looks out at the houses that parallel the train tracks.  She begins to actively observe the lives of a seemingly perfect couple who she sees as her daily train moves past their house.  One day while reading the newspaper, she discovers the woman she has been watching each day is missing.  Feeling as though she has a connection with the couple, Rachel decides to investigate the woman’s disappearance. She is quickly drawn into a complex web of conflict and deceit that she could not have imagined in her daily observations of the perfect couple whose life she watched as her daily trains trundled past their house.

Book Snitch’s thoughts

I honestly could not put this book down once I had read the opening chapter.  Whenever I take a train, I enjoyed spending time looking out of train windows and imagining the lives of the people whose houses I can see from the tracks.  Humans tend to be voyeuristic, and I have found we often tend to see the ‘flawless’ versions of people’s lives and we wonder what it would be like to live like someone else.  I think that Hawkins cleverly played on the idea that we like to observe others, so I enjoyed the premise of the flawed perception that Rachel has of the couple she watches.  Hawkins has alternating first person narratives, including the voice of the woman who goes missing, which has a similar feel to the style Gillian Flynn uses in Gone Girl.  She cleverly plants a lot of cryptic clues and a couple of false leads which kept me guessing throughout the novel until the finale.  Hawkins definitely manages to maintain suspense and a punchy pace throughout the narrative.  Rachel, the primary protagonist, is a flawed narrator with a drinking problem that results in only fragmented perceptions of events.  This was a clever gimmick which made the novel an nail-biting read.

 Who should read this?

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a page-turner, and more specifically fans of mystery or thrillers.  If you enjoyed the likes of Gillian Flynn’s contemporary psychological mysteries Gone Girl or Sharp Objects, this would also be a great choice.  My older students might enjoy this as a holiday read, and I will be recommending it to them for their Spring Break book list.

Book Snitch rating:  5/5 stars

Review – Thirteen Reasons Why

24 Apr

Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher.  Razorbill, 2011.

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

  • 159514188X  ISBN-13: 978-1595141880
  • YA fiction; mystery; teenagers; drama

The Plot

Clay Jensen, a high school student, arrives home one day to find a package waiting for him.  Inside the package are casette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his High school crush.  Hannah committed suicide the week before, and the tapes are her thirteen reasons why she ended her life.  As Clay listens to the first couple of tapes, he realises that Hannah has left a personal testimony detailing the people who influenced her decision…and that he may have been one of them.

Book Snitch says:

Th1rteen R3asons Why is a detective story of sorts, and Asher combines Clay’s thoughts with Hannah’s as the reader switches between hearing Hannah’s explanations and observing Clay’s reactions.  The plot is well constructed and there are many moments when Hannah surprises you with the information she reveals, some of which will resonate with many high school readers.  Asher develops tension as Clay listens to each tape which describes the people who influenced her tragic decisions and why.  You’ll be gripped as Hannah hints at many events which are only revealed in later tapes, drawing you in on the mystery trail with Clay.

The power of the novel is transmitted through Clay’s reactions and our underlying knowledge that it is too late for Hannah.  Though the premise may seem depressing, Asher is careful to make sure that there is education in Hannah’s story.

Who should read this?

A great YA read for teenagers aged twelve upwards.  Mystery fiction fans may also like this one.

Book Snitch comment for educators:

Th1rteen R3asons Why would make a great support text for a Homeroom program in high schools, providing plenty of content relating to health and social issues teenagers should be encouraged to communicate about.

5 stars