Everyone seems to love The Girl on the Train. It was a number one best seller; it’s being made into a movie; it’s on Obama’s summer vacation reading list. So fine. I just read it on my summer vacation.
The first thing I noticed is that the author used the technique I have settled on for my new novel: the point-of-view character is identified at the beginning of each chapter (along with the date and time of day). I have become a little dubious about this technique since my
writing group reviewed my latest chapters, and Jeff pointed out that I hadn’t correctly established my point-of-view character in one of them. “But I don’t need to,” I said. “The point-of-view character is identified in the chapter title.”
“Oh,” Jeff replied. “I hadn’t noticed that.”
So maybe I need to remove the “Chapter” designation; maybe I need to make the name of the character bigger. That’s what Paula Hawkins does. It’s probably all that stands between me and a deal for a major motion picture.
Anyway, her novel is well written and cleverly constructed, but I ended up being pretty disappointed. Here are the problems I had with it (moderate spoiler alert):
- I figured out who the murderer was pretty early on. I kept expecting there would be a further twist, but the twist never came.
- The critical event in the plot is witnessed by one of the narrators, but she doesn’t remember what happened because she was having an alcoholic blackout. Or perhaps it didn’t happen. Or perhaps she remembered it incorrectly. But finally she remembers it, and that solves the mystery. Meh.
- One of the other narrators solves the mystery because the murderer unaccountably holds onto a key piece of evidence against him. Phooey.
- The climax is straight out of a Lifetime movie. Woman finally realizes that the man she loved is really a lying cheating murdering psychopath. The man comes after her. Can she summon up the moxie to defeat him? Ugh.
But really, her chapter titles are pretty good.
Here’s the link for the Free Friday writeup of Senator on Barnes & Noble.
People are already reviewing it, which I think is weird. As with my previous Free Friday experience, the reviews are bimodal—people either love it or hate it. Here is a hater who left a comment:
Used the Lord’s name in vain multiple times at the beginning so I read no further. I don’t recommend this one at all.
Can’t argue with that. Here are some more favorable comments from Barnes & Noble and elsewhere. This one is voted the most helpful on Barnes & Noble:
One of Richard Bowker’s best novels — full of characters who are not just interesting but believable. Bowker’s style is clean and spare, but also engaging, vivid, and fast moving. I read this when it first appeared in hardcover, and am glad to see it back in print as an ebook.
And here’s the most helpful review on Amazon:
The beginning of this book put me off. I generally do not care for novels written in the first person, and the first chapters were tedious, another overworked story of the dead mistress whose murder threatens to ruin her high-placed lover. However, once all of the players were identified, I found myself relating to the protagonists and many supporting characters on the same kind of personal level as when I first read Presumed Innocent so many years ago. Bowker creates the flawed hero of the classics, a man driven on the one hand by ambition and on the other,by a sense of honor. Even at the end, the Senator possessed strengths and weaknesses that are not entirely resolved. In other words, he is human. This is not just a fine tuned murder mystery, it is a journey into the very complex issues of guilt and innocence-good and evil. For nearly a quarter century, I was a prosecutor of serious felonies, a position not without personal as well as professional challenges. It was not uncommon for me to sometimes relate to the defendant sitting one chair away at counsel table on a very human level. That did not change the nature of my mission–I was considered a tough prosecutor– but it made me reflect upon the difference between the concept of legal guilt and that of moral evil. This is not a story in which the murderer is arrested, tried and convicted, but its resolution is gratifying. In the past 18 months I have downloaded more than 415 books on my Kindle, and read all but a very few.This is one of the better ones, perhaps when it comes to a political mystery, the very best.
Just one more:
This is one of my favorite Richard Bowker novels — full of characters who are not just interesting but believable. Bowker writes in a clean, spare style that I find engaging and vivid, but also fast moving. I read this when it first appeared in hardcover, and am glad to see it back in print as an ebook.
My novel Senator is one of this week’s Free Friday selections at Barnes & Noble, and I just noticed they’ve already changed the price. Dover Beach was a Free Friday selection a while back; lots of people downloaded it, and it got lots of reviews, most of which were great. Some of them were, um, interesting. If you do download and read Senator, please leave a review, and I hope it’s at the reverential/awestruck end of the spectrum.
Senator is currently on sale at Barnes & Noble for the ridiculously low price of $0.99. (Yes, friends, you heard right!) So now would be a good time to pick it up if you’ve got a Nook.
I don’t know how this sort of thing works, but my publisher got the novel a spot on B&N’s “101 Nook Books Under $2.99” promotion. It’s currently on the third page, but the book moves up the pages as its sales rank improves. This promotion is having an effect. A couple of days ago Senator‘s sales rank was somewhere north of 300,000 on B&N, meaning (I suppose) that no one had bought it recently. Currently its sales rank is 460. Maybe someone will finally review it!
Here’s what the cover looks like, in case you’ve forgotten: