Check It Out Category: Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

Book Discussion Questions: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl on the Train book coverTitle:  The Girl on the Train
Author:  Paula Hawkins
Page Count: 323 pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense, Crime Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Tense, Disturbing

Summary:
Rachel sees the same couple breakfasting on their deck each morning as she passes by in her commuter train. She thinks their life looks perfect until, one day, she sees something shocking. The train moves on immediately, but she can’t keep it to herself and informs the police. Has she done more harm than good?

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The Girl on the Train debuted as #1 on the NYT Bestseller Fiction List and has continued to break sales and library checkout records. In your opinion, what is it about this book that captured the interest of millions of readers worldwide?

2. Many complain that Rachel is unlikable. Do you agree? How important to your enjoyment of a book depends on whether you like a main character? Does your response differ if the difficult character is male or female?

3. Others maintain that relatability is more important than likability. Is Rachel relatable to you? Do you understand her choices? Do you care what happens to her?

4. Many psychological thrillers of recent years incorporate uncertain memory as a major factor. What is it about amnesia or compromised memory that works so well in these stories?

5. Do you react differently to Rachel’s memory issues because they are her own fault?

6. Would the story have worked without Rachel’s multiple personal issues: a ‘stable’ commuter who notices out the window, for instance?

7. It has been suggested that Rachel is symbolic of our voyeuristic tendencies – both as individuals and as a society. Is this fair?

8. What does Rachel gain from her involvement in the investigation? What does it cost her?

9. Was the choice to use multiple perspectives effective? One review complained that the lack of distinction confuses the reader. How would you respond?

10. Contrast the life Rachel imagined for Jess with what we learn of Megan’s reality. What else do we gain from Megan’s perspective?

11. Anna’s voice isn’t introduced until a third of the way into the book. Did it surprise you? Throw you off? How distinct is her voice?

12. Speaking of voice, why are only female characters chosen for point of view?

13. Are there characters (main or secondary) that you trusted or knew right away not to trust?

14. Did you ever believe Rachel had something to do with Megan’s disappearance? Did she?

15. Would this story play out the same in a US setting, or are the UK elements essential?

16. Hawkins has said that “the set-up is often the fun part” with scenarios and red herrings, but it is “a really hard thing to make that final act a convincing ending.” How’d she do?

17. What becomes of the surviving characters? What kinds of lives do they lead in future?

18. Would you characterize this as a cynical book? Is there any hope or positivity? Does that matter?

19. What, if anything, is Hawkins trying to say about marriage/relationships?

20. How are children or pregnancy (or barrenness) catalysts for much of the action? Is this intended to be cultural commentary?

21. The theme of self-sabotage is well explored through several characters. Is there any examination of recovery or redemption?

22. What did you think of Hawkins’ writing? Did you respond positively to her style, her prose, and/or her pacing?

23. Early in movie talks, Hawkins commented that she had no idea who should be cast as Rachel, as she’s specifically described as unattractive. The finished adaptation stars Emily Blunt, whom Hawkins publicly endorsed as excellent in the role. Does casting a beautiful woman change the tenor of the story?

24. Having “Girl” in the title has become shorthand to identify a specific type of psychological thriller. Is it problematic that a 32-year-old, divorced, hard-drinking woman is labelled this way? For contrast, consider the parallel The Boy on the Train. Why do you think this is so?

25. How would you characterize your experience of reading The Girl on the Train? Did you approach it as a whodunit? Would you describe it as a fun read?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Paula Hawkins: By the Book via New York Times Book Review
Paula Hawkins: The Woman Behind The Girl on the Train via The Guardian
Interview on NPR: All Things Considered (audio or transcript)
BookPage feature on Paula Hawkins
LitLovers discussion guide
Three perspectives on the book’s settings: The Book Trail, shmoop, and a composite map
Hawkins’ next book, Into the Water, announced

READALIKES:

Pocket Wife book coverThe Pocket Wife
by Susan Crawford

Behind Her EyesBehind Her Eyes
by Sarah Pinborough

Suspect book coverSuspect
by Michael Robotham

New Mystery Spotlight: The Hermit by Thomas Bydahl

The Hermit book coverThomas Bydahl narrows in on the life of Erhard, an older gentleman who left his child and wife to live a life as a hermit on the Spanish island of Fuerteventure. On that island Erhard becomes involved with a murder and is thrown into the technology adapted twenty-first century even though he has completely cut himself off from the modern world since he left his family twenty years ago.

This Danish crime is written in a distant third person narration, which positions readers as if they are sitting in a helicopter over the island, keenly observing Erhard as he slowly wades his way back into life. The Hermit is for the reader that likes an exotic setting, a fully developed character, and a slow burning plot.

Fiction: Twelve Days of Christmas Books

How do you choose your holiday comfort read? Some are drawn to covers with holly-decked cottages, snow-dusted couples, or anything in bright red or green. Others select by genre, familiarity of author, or tone. Anything is fair game to help you find the book that fits your mood! These authors are hoping that echoing a familiar carol in the title might tempt your interest for one or all twelve days of Christmas.

 

Twelve Days book coverTwelve Days 
Teresa Hill
Twelve Days of Christmas book coverTwelve Days of Christmas
Debbie Macomber

 

Three French Hens book coverThree French Hens
Lynsay Sands
Six Geese A-Slaying book coverSix Geese A-Slaying
Donna Andrews
Ten Lords A-Leaping book coverTen Lords A-Leaping
C.C. Benison

 

Twelve Days of Pleasure book coverTwelve Days of Pleasure
Deborah Fletcher Mello

Graphic Novel: Grandville Noël by Bryan Talbot

Grandville Noel book coverUnicorn cult leader pursued by Victorian badger detective and Pinkerton cowboy is hardly the recipe for a traditional holiday story, and that surprise is what makes Grandville Noël  irresistible. Creator Bryan Talbot plays with expectations in a Christmas installment of the steampunk Wind in the Willows-like Grandville series that can be thoroughly entertaining even to newcomers.

Interplay of sepia and color, along with an elegance of line, illuminates in bold detail both action scenes and quieter moments. You’ll be riveted by Scotland Yard Inspector LeBrock’s efforts to rescue a vulnerable young woman who has been dazzled by promises of acceptance and love, proving that the fantasy-allegory-mystery-thriller hybrid speaks to themes of the season after all.

Book Discussion Questions: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl cover imageTitle: The Good Girl
Author:  Mary Kubica
Page Count: 382 pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Tone:  Compelling, Contemplative

Summary:
Inner-city art teacher Mia Dennett is taken hostage by her one-night stand, Colin Thatcher, who, instead of delivering her to his employers, hides her in a cabin in rural Minnesota to keep her safe from harm.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Without going into detail of the why’s, did this book turn out to be what you were expecting?

2. The story is basically told through 3 people’s viewpoints. Did this type of storytelling work for you?

3. We are introduced and get to know Mia through other characters perceptions ( Eve and Colin).  Did you feel like you got to know the character?

4. Let’s talk about Colin/ Owen. What did you think about him?

5. On the night of her abduction Mia leaves the bar with a stranger. How did this action affect your perceptions of her character?

6. What did you think about Eve not telling Detective Hoffman about Mia’s checkered past as he was beginning his investigation?

7. We all have our theories when reading these types of books, Initially, who did you think had Mia kidnapped and why?

8. What are your thoughts on the side characters (Jason/Grace/Delmar)?

9. Mia said to Colin that she (Mia) and her father are different people and that Grace was the one just like her father.  What would you say about that statement?

10. Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin. There were many times he could have just left her and didn’t.  Why did you think he decided to stay and as you were reading this, were you questioning his motivations?

11. Let’s talk about the lady with the flat tire. What did you think would happen?

12. Was there ever a point in the book where you hoped Colin and Mia wouldn’t be found?

13. What did you think of Colin’s relationship with his mother?

14. During the ongoing investigation Eve basically throws herself at Detective Hoffman. What was your reaction to that passage?

OTHER RESOURCES:

From the publisher: The Good Girl book discussion kit
Reading group guide
Chicago Tribune article on Kubica’s book deal
Book trailer (video)
Interview with Mary Kubica (video)
Q&A with Mary Kubica

READALIKES:

eyes-on-you book coverEyes on You
by Kate White

cartwheel book coverCartwheel
by Jennifer DuBois

Gone Girl book coverGone Girl
by Gillian Flynn

Audiobook: The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin

Broken Ones book coverThe dead have risen, and they are shadowing us. Three years ago the earth’s poles inexplicably switched, plunging the planet into chaos. One effect was the appearance of personal ghosts, usually with a close connection to the haunted. Detective Oscar Mariani, however, can’t place the 16-year-old boy who is now his otherworldly companion. His unit specializes in those who are driven to murder by the presence of spirits, and he’ll need all his faculties intact to solve the latest gruesome killing.

Horror tales (or horror-blends) are especially heightened in audio, and Australian narrator Grant Cartwright shows how a strong performance can intensify the crawling of our skin. His skill in intonation, emotion, and pacing keeps us listening even though we’re tempted to hide under the covers. The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin is both fascinating and creepy, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Staff Pick: Faithful Place by Tana French

Picture of NancyAfter hearing readers rave about Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad mysteries, I picked up Faithful Place (third in the series) and now I have a new favorite author.  This title features Frank Mackey, an undercover cop who examines the complicated relationships of his own past as he works a cold case.  With its atmospheric Irish setting and flawed characters, this is an incredibly satisfying mystery. 

Fiction: Books with Airplane Trouble

Air travel requires a great deal of faith in both the plane and its crew. The odds are in our favor, but sometimes things go wrong. Opening in theaters today is the story of Sully, the heroic pilot who executed an emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in January 2009. Not all crises in the skies have the assurance of a happy ending, and in fiction it is that very tension which keeps those pages turning. If you’re looking for excitement and drama, try one of these stories of airplane trouble — some accidental, some intentional — and find out if a hero emerges.

 

Before the Fall book coverBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley

In one of the standout releases of 2016, the stories of ten wealthy victims of a plane crash intertwine with those of a down-on-his-luck painter and a four-year-old boy, the tragedy’s only survivors, as odd coincidences surrounding the crash point to a possible conspiracy.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy BlumeIn the Unlikely Event book cover

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life — when a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving her community reeling.

Blackout book coverBlackout by John J. Nance 

On a routine flight to Hong Kong, a Boeing jet is rocked by an explosion that leaves one pilot dead and the other blinded. An investigation is called and as it proceeds, FBI agent and terrorism specialist Kat Bronsky is assigned to hunt down the crew of a Global Express business jet spotted nearby just before the explosion.

Seat Beside Me book coverThe Seat Beside Me by Nancy Moser

That strange, snoring, legroom-invading person next to you on the airplane — have you ever imagined owing your life to him? This is the gripping story of five passengers and their seatmates who get casually acquainted — then plunge headlong into an icy river in a sudden plane crash.

Mayday book coverMayday by Thomas Block

When a jumbo jet is struck by a missile twelve miles above the Pacific Ocean, three brave passengers attempt to land the plane.

Skid book coverSkid by Rene Gutteridge

Hank Hazard, a homeschooled mime for his family’s troupe, takes a new job as an airline company spy on Atlantica Flight 1945 and encounters a cast of quirky crew members and passengers, plus some unexpected turbulence.

Human Error book coverHuman Error by Tom Casey

When a plane bound for Paris crashes, killing forty-five of the people on board, the personal and professional life of the pilot, Captain Hugo Price, comes under intense official strutiny, as both the government and Price himself try to determine if he is at fault for the fatal accident.

Ask for more suggestions online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk on the second floor!

Staff Pick: Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Jennifer from Community Services suggests Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Relic ChildLet me start by saying, if you saw the movie based on this book from a few years back, the book is very different and well worth a read.

Relic takes place with the fictionalized equivalent to New York City’s American Museum of Natural History, where the museum curators are getting ready for a huge extravaganza, the Superstition exhibition. As the exhibit title implies, it is designed to feature the world’s superstitions. Among the artifacts on display in the exhibit is a small relic clouded in mystery and disaster, bringing with it rumors of a horrible curse that resulted in the death of everyone on the expedition that discovered it.

Now, just a week before the big exhibit opening, people are being brutally attacked and murdered in the nether-regions of the museum. Museum officials just want it all to go away (murder can be such a bother some times), but FBI Special Agent Pendergast, NYPD Police Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta, Ph.D. candidate Margo Green, and intrepid journalist William Smithback, Jr. are determined to get to the bottom of the grizzly killings. Relic, while very different from what has become known as the Pendergast series, is an absolutely fantastic read.

For more detailed thrilling adventures, try…

 

The 6th ExtinctionThe 6th Extinction: A Sigma Force by James Rollins

A madman with an environmental agenda has gotten a hold of the most powerful virus on the planet. A virus no plant of animal has immunity against, and which can be used to bring about the 6th Extinction.

 

 

 

The Great Zoo of China book coverThe Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

CJ Cameron is on assignment to see The Great Zoo of China ahead of its grand opening. CJ is unaware of what exactly lurks inside the Great Zoo until she arrives at a hidden valley in China under great secrecy and sees it for herself.

 

 

 

Pulse book coverPulse by Jeremy Robinson

A small elite military unit comes into conflict with an evil mega-corporation that it trying to find the secret of eternal life.

 

 

 

in-the-woodsIn the Woods by Tana French
When a girl is found murdered at an archaeological dig, Detectives Ryan and Maddox are assigned to the case. Detective Maddox uncovers an eerily similar case twenty years earlier, a case that saw an adolescent Detective Ryan as the only survivor.

 

 

 

The Supernatural Enhancements book coverThe Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

An inherited haunted house, cryptology, and an undercover society on a quest around the world lead the new master of the house to uncover the secrets of its former owners.

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New Audio Spotlight: Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley

Charcoal Joe audiobook coverSometimes we’re looking to be dropped into a rich, moody world that doesn’t bear much resemblance to our everyday. A favorite escape is to the dark streets of mid-century Los Angeles, in the company of legendary detective Easy Rawlins. In Charcoal Joe, Rawlins is asked to aid a promising Stanford student charged with the race-related murder of a white man in the late 1960s. Author Walter Mosley, winner of the 2016 Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, once again creates a door to history with gritty settings, lifelike characters, and velvet words.

Narrator Michael Boatman knows that the language of a Mosley story is its power, and he emphasizes the swagger and silk of the characters’ dialogue. Descriptions are spun with a cadence that makes them reality, and hard-boiled tension is equally earned. It’s a smooth performance, and one Easy himself would approve.