Updated: Mar 4
The Passenger - Daniel Hurst
Released: 28th March 2021
Psychological Thriller Fans rating - 77% ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Psychological thriller
Premise: Amanda, a hard-working single mum is approached on her train commute home one evening by a man who tells her that his accomplice is holding her daughter hostage at home and will start hurting her if she doesn’t give him the combination to her safe which he knows contains £20,000 in cash.
The good: Easy read, great premise, well-written
The bad: Missing a major plot twist
The ugly: Random sentences pulled out in italics throughout the story for no good reason
In summary: A quick, easy read with a great premise but with a few minor plot holes and no sign of a major plot twist that would have elevated this story into a five-star book.
The Passenger is the first thriller I’ve read from Daniel Hurst, one of the new breed of semi-independent authors knocking out psychological thrillers at a frightening pace.
In fact, in 2021, he had seven books in the top 100 of the Amazon Kindle psychological thriller chart.
He clearly writes fast and is building up a loyal and dedicated following.
The Passenger is an easy, fast-paced read which does fulfil the main criteria of a psychological thriller in that the protagonist (Amanda) is facing a life and death struggle, although it’s not her death she’s fighting to avoid, but her daughter’s.
In thriller terms, this is the ‘fate worse than death’. In other words, losing her daughter is a purgatory far worse than Amanda's own death.
I loved the premise of this thriller for its simplicity.
A thief targets single-mum Amanda after discovering she is keeping £20,000 in cash in a safe in her house because she no longer trusts banks and is saving up to leave her job to become a full-time writer.
Meanwhile, the thief's accomplice, James has been grooming Amanda’s daughter, Louise, pretending to be her boyfriend to gain her trust.
When the stranger on the train approaches Amanda and demands her safe combination, James turns on Louise.
The story then becomes a will she / won’t she rollercoaster as Amanda has to decide whether to give up the combination and throw away her chance to follow her dreams or save her daughter.
That’s the main crisis that provides the tension in the first half of the book, although the stakes never rise or fall and so I found the first 50% of the book a little repetitive and slow.
There’s a good mid-point twist that shakes the story up but my biggest criticism is the missed opportunity for a major plot twist at the end.
I read it trying to predict what it might be and imagining lots of different scenarios – but none were delivered sadly. A real missed opportunity to make this book a standout read.
The story is told from the four different POVs (points of view) – Amanda, Louise, the stranger on the train and James, a technique that worked well for this story.
The plot came together nicely at the end with all the strands tied off neatly.
However, there were a few plot holes in my opinion and some annoying contrived conveniences.
For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t detail them, but they did leave me frustrated, especially when they were easily fixable. Maybe a second pair of editor’s eyes was needed.
Otherwise, the only other thing I found slightly off-putting was Hurst’s fondness for pulling out random sentences and putting them into italics.
I couldn’t see a reason for it and found myself getting increasingly irritated the more I found.
That aside, The Passenger is an accomplished psychological thriller. Maybe not one that will last in the memory for a long time, but an easy and entertaining read.
Psychological Thriller Fans rating of 77%.
She takes the same train every day. But this is a journey she’ll never forget. Amanda is a hardworking single mum, completely focused on her job and her daughter, Louise. She’s been saving for years and now, finally, she can afford to give up work and chase her dream.
But then, on her commute home from London to Brighton, she meets a charming stranger - who seems to know everything about her.
He delivers an ultimatum. She needs to give him the code for the safe where she keeps her savings before the train reaches Brighton - or she’ll never see Louise again.
Convinced that the threat is real, Amanda is stunned, horrified. She knows she should give him the code, but she can’t. Because she also knows there is a terrible secret in that safe which will destroy her life and Louise’s too…
AMAZON CA (paperback)
AMAZON AUS (paperback)
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AJ Wills is the bestselling author of multiple psychological thrillers. He was a journalist for more than twenty years and has been writing full-time since March 2021. He's married to fellow thriller writer, AJ McDine.