Jan's Book of the Month: 'The Girl On the Train'

by Kathleen Culliton

If you like mysteries, or if you like unreliable narrators, or if you like a sloppy drunk protagonist, or a good old fashioned train mystery, I’ve got a book for you. And if you like upbeat stories with romance and sunshine … well, you can just click off, because things are about to get way too real for you.

Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train (Riverhead) is a mystery within a mystery. The big mystery is the hunt for Megan Hipwell, a suburban housewife with a seemingly perfect life. Or so it seems to Rachel, an extreme alcoholic (she knocks back canned gin and tonics and pukes in unexpected places) who spends her days looking out the window on London-bound commuter trains. As Rachel’s train passes, she watches Megan perching with her husband upon the deck of their house, and longs to step into her life. Megan suddenly disappears, however, and Rachel is certain she holds a key to unlocking the mystery — she's seen something that could help the police, and Megan's husband, put the pieces together. But who will believe a woman like Rachel: a voyeur and raging drunk?

Which brings us to the mystery within the mystery: Rachel. Can she be trusted to lead us through this story? And why did this woman, who once had a happy marriage, a responsible job, and a little suburban existence not so different from Megan’s, sink so low in the first place? Amidst this chaos is a well-plotted and cleverly hidden secret. It'll keep you guessing until the very last page (and that's one reason why it's Bustle's January Book of the Month!)

You're going to love The Girl On the Train. And if you've loved any of these 9 books below,The Girl On the Train is definitely for you.

You should read The Girl On the Train If You Loved...

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

What it’s about: Do you live on Earth? You know what it's about. Why you probably liked it: Because the bad girls are the best girls.Why you’ll like The Girl on the Train: Because you've already learned from Gone Girl that it’s fun not to trust anyone.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

What it’s about: A sociopath on a role in Europe.Why you probably liked it: Nothing is more charming than a sociopath.Why you should read The Girl on the Train: Nothing is more charming than a sociopath.

Faithful Place by Tana French

What it’s about: An Irish detective discovers the girl that stood him up and broke his heart vanished the night they were to elope.Why you probably liked it: You appreciate a melancholy detective with an accent. Why you should read The Girl on the Train: Rachel isn't as dreamy as Detective Frank Mackey, but she's got melancholia in spades.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré

What it’s about: A drunk on a mission to save us from communism, and he’s mad as hell about it.Why you probably liked it: Because an ill-equipped hero who finds being a hero a damned nuisance is damned delightful. Why you should read The Girl on the Train: Because it's also delightful to watch an ill-equipped hero find redemption. Or try, anyway.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran

What it’s about: A boozy lady detective stirring up trouble in post-Katrina New Orleans. Why you probably liked it: Who doesn't like boozy, sinister fun when in New Orleans? Why you should read The Girl on the Train: Because the only differences between Claire DeWitt and Rachel Watson are a P.I. license and an accent.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

What it’s about: Bloody murder. And truth.Why you probably liked it: It’s a classic — the first non-fiction novel.Why you should read The Girl on the Train:

Capote and Hawkins share the rare gift of being able to humanize anyone, no matter how unlikable.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling, ahem "Robert Galbraith"

What it’s about: A dead model who everyone thinks committed suicide and a surly detective who knows better. Why you probably liked it: You were in Harry Potter withdrawal and it eased the pain.Why you should read The Girl on the Train: Both detectives fight against common opinion and insist that more is going on than meets the eye. Ah, loners. We're weird and always right. Am I right?

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

What it’s about: Murder on a train.Why you probably liked it: Trains make all mysteries better. Why you should read The Girl on the Train: Trains make all mysteries better.

After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

What it’s about: Greed, corruption, torrid affairs, vanishing lovers, and Baltimore. Why you probably liked it: Because the whole story spins around a woman named Bambi. Why you should read The Girl on the Train:

Clearly you enjoy the off-beat.

Images: Johnny Ring; roberto taddeo, Chris JL, cloud2013, pasa47/Flickr