I know I’m not in the majority here, but I just did not love this book as much as everyone else did. Or maybe I did. I really can’t make up my mind about it. I did stay up until 3am to finish it in one day.
Rachel is a woman on a downward spiral after her husband left her, her job fired her and her alcoholism is out of control. She takes the train every day to fool her roommate into thinking she’s still employed. At one of the stops, she can see her old house from the window, where she used to be happy with her husband. He lives there with his new wife and their child. Next door is another attractive couple that Rachel begins to fixate on every day at the same stop. She constructs an elaborate and perfect life in her head for them. Then the woman ends up murdered.
On the one hand, I love the inter-connectivity of all the characters. Everyday Rachel takes the same train, sees the same people, creates a fantasy for the people that she sees. It something everyone does, but no one really talks about it. And then after she gets involved in the investigation, Rachel sees how everyone’s lives intersect and influence each other. I like that thought, that as I commute to work, there are hundreds of little comedies and dramas playing out in the other cars stuck on the same highway as me. And that we are all somehow connected to each other on this little blue ball hurtling around the universe.
On the other hand, I am sick to death of sociopaths. Part of that is personal – I once had my heart broken by someone that pretended to be human, like Rachel’s ex-husband. But it’s also a trope that is getting too commonplace in the mystery genre. Not every murder needs to be a cold-hearted, calculating, emotionless sociopath. It’s an easy out, like murders can’t be normal, everyday people too. The heart of a mystery is never really the whodunit, it’s the motive. Why did Colonel Mustard do it in the library with a wrench? Colonel Mustard was just like us, and then he killed someone. It’s just lazy to answer the why with “because he’s a sociopath”.