After ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins, a top best-seller, comes ‘Girl on a Train’. A journalist meets a troubled young woman on a train who is later found to have committed suicide. Our protagonist is certain that it is not suicide and sets out to investigate. The story proceeds at a reasonable pace till the middle of the book but then starts going around in circles. The worst part is the end – that has a poor rationale and is difficult to believe. In fact, believability is an issue with other parts of the book too. Doesn’t quite add to the pace and suspense of Hawkins’ book.
Recommendation: Stick with the original best-seller.
Not often you read stories set on Indian reservations. The Round House is a saga of rape, exploitation and bravery – not an unfamiliar territory for native Indians on the reservations. A disgruntled white man connected to a powerful politician carries out a killing to hide the evidence of his own misdeeds and then compounds the crime by raping an eyewitness – and both the victims are Indian women. The story, told by the second victim’s son, is essentially an unraveling of the mystery of what actually transpired. The plot by itself isn’t exceptional but is told well. The setting is unique – the modern day life on Indian reservations is captured really well. However, what stands out is the voice of the narrator. A genuine teenaged voice, reminiscent of Salinger. The POV is strong, stark and deeply endearing.
Murder mysteries and detective fiction is not quite my thing but I wanted to read Chandler. Writing gurus laud Chandler as the ultimate in capturing vivid scenes. Sample the opening paragraph of the book – quoted often by the writing books –“ it was about eleven o’ clock…. I was wearing my powder-blue suit with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was walking on four million dollars” or this… “This was a broad stained glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. The knight had pushed the vizor of his helmet back to be sociable and he was fiddling with the knots on the ropes that tied the lady to the tree and not getting anywhere. I stood there and thought that if I lived in the house I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him. He didn’t seem to be really trying.” How’s that for imagery and humor. Amazing indeed. However the eye for detail, surprisingly gets a bit tiresome – especially if unaccompanied by humor. A simple enough mystery, a few twists and turns – but nothing to shock you out of your socks. Fast paced and witty and humorous. Written over 50 years ago, it can’t compete with the complex mysteries of today.
Recommendation: I’d rather read Chandler’s quoted texts in the writing books