Is “The Girl On The Train” The New “Gone Girl”

“The Girl on the Train” thriller, published Jan. 13 in the U.S., is flying off shelves and already has landed a movie deal.

The book by Britain’s Paula Hawkins, made its debut at No. 1 on The Wall Street Journal best-seller list for hardcovers and e-books combined.

After an initial print run of 40,000 copies, the book is in its 10th printing in the U.S., with more than 250,000 copies out, according to the book’s publisher, Penguin Random House imprint Riverhead Books. Publishing rights have been sold to 33 territories around the world and DreamWorks has acquired the film rights.

That’s a promising start for a page-turner that many have anointed the successor to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” Since its publication in June 2012, Ms. Flynn’s thriller has sold more than 7.6 million copies and been a fixture on best-seller lists—first in hardcover, then in paperback.

Hawkins’s book is a mystery that unspools through different untrustworthy points of view. “The Girl on the Train” has three narrators—all women. The main one, Rachel, is an alcoholic who occasionally blacks out and can’t trust her own memory. Rachel commutes by train and, looking out the window, sees the same couple having breakfast every morning in a house by the tracks. She assigns them names, and feels that she knows them. After learning that the woman in the couple has disappeared, Rachel realizes she’s witnessed something that could be crucial to solving the case.

This is the first novel to appear under Hawkins’s real name. The 42-year-old author grew up in Zimbabwe and moved to London, where she now lives, when she was 17. Before “The Girl on the Train,” she wrote women’s fiction for hire under the pseudonym Amy Silver, fleshing out plotlines and characters assigned to her. Those books, which were published only in the U.K., were mostly romantic comedies. That genre, it turned out, wasn’t her strong suit.

The stories “kept getting darker and darker,” Hawkins said in an NPR interview. “I’m not a joyful, romantic person. I can be, but I’ve got a proper dark side and I enjoy indulging it.”

“None of us can think of another debut that has exploded out of the gate this fast,” said Madeline McIntosh, president of the Penguin Publishing Group. “As to why it’s caught fire, I think it’s really come down to the read.

Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote “‘The Girl on the Train’ has more fun with unreliable narration than any chiller since ‘Gone Girl,’ the book still entrenched on best-seller lists 2½ years after publication because nothing better has come along.” Others have drawn parallels to the suspense and voyeurism of Alfred Hitchcock. “Nothing replicated my response to ‘Rear Window’ until I read Paula Hawkins’s debut novel, ‘The Girl on the Train,’ ” Kim Kankiewicz wrote in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

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