THE STRANGER ON THE TRAIN by Abbie Taylor

THE STRANGER ON THE TRAIN

KIRKUS REVIEW

Taylor debuts with a wired-tight psychological thriller dissecting a kidnapping.

Single mother Emma Turner is returning home from a London outing when her toddler son, Ritchie, becomes stranded alone in a subway carriage. Emma panics, but Antonia, a beautiful, stylish, 40-ish blonde already seated in the locked car, takes charge. She tells Emma through the closed door to meet her and Ritchie at the next station. Taylor does nail-biting work setting tension at a boil from the story’s opening moments, with young toughs loitering on the subway stairs and the ominous noise of the train approaching. Antonia meets Emma to return Ritchie, but Emma is confused by her controlling attitude. Then, while Emma makes a quick trip to the bathroom, Antonia and Ritchie disappear. Characterization is deft: Emma, a mid-20s underemployed university grad who seduced herself into pregnancy; police officers Hill and Lindsay, one a hulking inspector with cold blue eyes who immediately suspects Emma of harming Ritchie, the other a victim-liaison officer who vacillates between suspicion and empathy; and witness Rafe, a young man who resigned from the police force after his probationary year and now decides to help Emma find her son. Telling the story chronologically with flashbacks to Emma’s troubled childhood and her ill-starred romance with Ritchie’s biological father, Taylor adeptly paints London, contrasting its immensity with its insular pubs and parks. Emma strays toward becoming a one-note character, "defensive...hostile and prickly and angry," but Taylor gradually reveals back story explaining why she’s in a "rut of self-pity." Antonia’s motive and actions are perfect—and logical in their own mad way—as are the police, trapped by bureaucracy and rigid preconceptions, but Rafe seems a bland hero without flaw.

An Alfred Hitchcock–like psychodrama drawn from a mother’s nightmare.

Pub Date: May 27th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4767-5497-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2014




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