Thursday, February 26, 2015

Paula Hawkins
Riverhead Books
January 2015

The Girl on the Train debuted at the top of the NYT list, something almost unheard of for a first book. Necessarily that called for a lot of pre publication hype and the usual comparisons to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. I have never read Gone Girl and generally avoid books so extensively hyped. In the case of The Girl on the Train though, I found the book's premise almost irresistible. Rachel commutes to London daily and has taken to watching a couple who live in a house close to the tracks. They appear to have an idyllic life and Rachel dubs them "Jess and Jason". One day Rachel sees something quite shocking from the train and hears the next day that "Jess", actually named Megan, is missing. Rachel feels that she must tell the police what she saw. But if she does will she do more harm than good?

Told in the alternating voices of Rachel, Megan and the new wife of Rachel's ex, Anna, The Girl on the Train kept me riveted throughout. That is no small feat considering that each narrator is not only entirely unreliable but also entirely unlikable. Rachel is an alcoholic who has let everything in her life go after the break-up of her marriage. She lives in a fantasy land and is making no attempt to straighten herself out. I did have a little sympathy for her but none for Megan or Anna. The Girl on the Train is a gem of plotting and a twisted tale that will keep you guessing from beginning to end.

I recommend The Girl on the Train highly!

RATING- 4.5 Stars

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Very funny British Mystery debut set in the publishing world

Judith Flanders
St. Martin's Minotaur
February 24, 2015

Samantha "Sam" Clair is a successful book editor in her late 30's or early 40's for a smallish British publishing house. Her usual clients write what is known as "women's fiction" but she does have a few that don't fit that niche. One of those others is a flamboyant fashion writer, Kit Lovell, whose books usually require close vetting by libel lawyers. Kit's newest manuscript threatens to be more incendiary than usual, however. In it, he suggests that the death of the chief designer and head of a major Parisian fashion house was not the accident it was supposed to be by the French Police, but a murder. As well there are allusions to possible money laundering through the House of Vernet. When Kit disappears and Sam's flat is burgled, it is clear that someone is desperate to get hold of the manuscript. Afraid for Kit's safety and her own, Sam turns amateur sleuth. To top off her problems her most successful author, one who writes a bestseller every year has turned in what Sam thinks is an unsaleable book.

Having worked in publishing for a while, I really enjoyed  A Murder of Magpies. Sam has a very humorous and down-to-earth attitude towards her work and the people she works with. Most of the characters were instantly recognizable to me, from the publicity folks who can't spell to the condescending young "literary fiction" editor. Her descriptions of the endless meetings she must attend are hilarious. Sam herself is very likable, if perhaps too much buried in her work. The attractive CID Inspector investigating Kit's disappearance thinks so too, along with her somewhat scary super lawyer mother. I did get a little bogged down in the money laundering and stalking subplots, as well as the many characters introduced throughout the book. The primary characters were vivid and memorable but the secondary ones were confusing to me at times. I do hope that this is just the beginning of a series. I would love to spend more time with Sam and her friends, old and new. Thanks to Minotaur and for an advance digital copy.

RATING- 4 Stars