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First take

Having just finished Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on a Train, the big fiction seller so far this year, I was impressed. It was an enjoyable read, maybe better than that, but impressive for several reasons beyond that. One is its seeming simplicity and (in a way not meant as a criticism) almost a rote feel. Characters who are not cops or lawyers or supertalented spies but ordinary people doing, for the most part, ordinary things. A slow and gradual build toward a thriller ending – and the patience and guts to gamble that readers will hang in there through the seemingly uneventful start in hope that it pays off (which it does). It seems a lot simpler than it is, and the writing seems easier and more basic than it is, too. Ten thousand copycats will follow in this wake of this megaseller, if a single one works nearly as well, I’d be surprised. This kind of seeming effortlessness is awfully hard to pull off. Paula Hawkins has a true mastery of the craft.

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