The Stranger on the Train by Abbie Taylor © 2009 Atria
Good premise—young single mother boarding a subway with her toddler on a child leash, subway doors close with toddler on board and mother outside, toddler scooped up by woman on train, who signals she will wait at the next stop. Only the stranger on the train kidnaps the child. The distraught mother, Emma, has trouble convincing police it really happened, because Emma recently confided her single-mother angst to her GP, going so far as to say she wished she didn’t have little Richie.
Uncertainty whether Emma offed her child and made up the kidnapping was the story’s best element. I wish Taylor had milked it more thoroughly. Emma, with the help of an ex-cop, tracks down the maybe-kidnapper, who has a child that might be Richie. Why the ex-cop got so involved with Emma, who was a stranger to him, was hard to figure. Taylor used a jarring POV shift in the middle of the book to try and cure this problem, but it didn’t help. The ex-cop was obviously thrown in so Emma could have access to police information. At least Taylor, at the very end, made the ex-cop into Emma’s love interest.
Stranger built to an exciting conclusion involving the maybe-kidnapper and maybe-Richie, but unfortunately not Emma, whom Taylor chose to put in hospital while police resolved the mystery in “off-screen” narrative. Note to writers: your main character should be present at your plot’s exciting conclusion.
Compositional shortcomings notwithstanding (3 words, 41 letters, how literary of me!), Stranger’s good premise kept me interested enough to see how it all turned out and kept me turning pages. A plot and character the reader can sympathize with (I could see that happening to me) is sometimes enough, and in this case, just enough to keep Stranger on my keeper bookshelf.