I’ve just finished the hugely popular Girl on a Train, which – with tedious predictability – has been compared to the blockbuster of several years ago, Gone Girl. I read Gone Girl in two days and really wished I hadn’t bothered. While I found it wickedly clever and stylishly written, it left me feeling completely empty at the end – and even feeling I needed to take a bath. This is slick, escapist entertainment at its most hyped – empty, shallow and pointless. But there is a huge market out there for just such a book, alas alas and alas. Girl on a Train, I’m afraid, is much the same, at least in my opinion – even though several of my friends raved about it. Yes, it has Hitchcockian echoes as a young woman riding on a train sees an incident in a backyard as she passes which may or may not offer clues to the solution of a murder. The book contains three unreliable and very unlikeable female narrators, their stories all intertwined, but I found the experience of immersing myself in their sordidness endlessly tedious, and the wicked cleverness of the plot ultimately pointless and unfulfilling. I hate to be so harsh, but when there are so many far more worthy crime novels out there of real depth and substance which cannot manage the hysteria (and money) generated by books such as the two above, it is frustrating in the extreme for a reviewer and aspiring crime novelist such as myself.
These mega million bestsellers don’t really need any more press from the likes of me, they receive more than enough as it is – making it difficult for equally deserving crime novels on the fringes to get noticed. And they tend to follow the winds of fashion, which are not known for their taste and judgement.
I’m going through the recent spate of “Girl” crime novels, all of them having psychopaths as their villains. Gone Girl, made into a now famous film that I preferred to the book, Girl on the Train which I am briefly reviewing here, and Girl/Woman in the Window (2 separate novels). All of these psychopath crime novels either have or will be made into feature Hollywood films.
I give both books three stars only: ★ ★ ★
Despite this reading experience, I continue to feel obligated to punish myself by reading these blockbusters – just to keep abreast of fashion. I’ve now just started another in the same mode, The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. I’m happy to say that so far at least it appears to be a cut above the other two. It is also being compared to Gone Girl and described as ‘devilishly clever’ and ‘Hitchcockian,’ the standard cliches of marketing hype. Let’s see if it rises above the din.