You know I love a good book list (I am an inveterate list maker of all kinds as a matter of fact), and when I came across a mystery set on a train last time I was browsing the new books shelves at the library, I thought what a great theme for a Thursday Thirteen. Actually I have many times thought this would make a great theme, tucked the idea away and then promptly forgot about it. But today is the day--I have come up with a list of books set (mostly) on trains. I love trains as a book or movie setting. Does that sound odd? I have never ridden an American train, but I have in Europe and unsurprisingly loved that, too. There is something sort of romantic about train travel--think Katherine Hepburn in David Lean's film Summertime (one of my all-time favorites--granted it only begins on a train but look where the destination is and what happens to her there) or Julie Deply in Before Sunrise. There are scads of books with train settings (lots of mysteries and thrillers), too, and here are thirteen of them.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie -- I've been saving this particular Poirot mystery. I read that it is the most famous Hercule Poirot mystery. "Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer."
Death Rides the Zephyr by Janet Dawson -- This was my recent library find--just sitting and waiting for me in my (rather large) library book pile. "December 23, 1952. A transcontinental train is stopped cold by an avalanche in a remote Colorado canyon. There's a murderer aboard, one who has already killed, and will kill again unless stopped."
Strangers on a Train by Patricial Highsmith -- I had this one in my hand not too long ago (but in the end I picked up Elizabeth Haynes's novel). [This is] "Highsmith's first novel and the source for Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1953 film. With this novel, Highsmith revels in eliciting the unsettling psychological forces that lurk beneath the surface of everyday contemporary life."
The Sleeper by Emily Barr -- "Two strangers meet on a train and only one gets off."
Stamboul Train by Graham Greene -- "Published in 1932, this spy thriller unfolds aboard the Orient Express as it crosses Europe from Ostend to Constantinople. Weaving a web of subterfuge, murder and politics along the way, it focuses upon the disturbing relationship between Myatt, the pragmatic Jew, and chorus girl, Coral Musker." I've owned this edition for years and years--not sure why I've not read it yet. Maybe it should go with me to Texas later this month?
The Lady Vanishes by Lina Ethel White -- I read this one a few years back and recall enjoying it very much. I liked the Hitchcock movie adaptation, too, and am curious about the more recent remake (though have only heard tepid things about it). Truly a classic!
Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood -- "Phryne is giving her red Hispano-Suiza a break: this week she is travelling by train to Ballarat. But what should have been the trip of her dreams, soon turns into the stuff of nightmares. Phryne has to use her Beretta .32 to save her life and that of her traveling companion Dot. And someone has poisoned the other passengers with chloroform." I love Phryne. I've read the first few books in this series and really must get back to them.
Stranger on a Train by Jenny Diski -- "Using two cross-country trips on Amtrak as her narrative vehicles, British writer Jenny Diski connects the humming rails, taking her into the heart of America with the track-like scars leading back to her own past." Have been meaning to read Diski's work . . .
Death Train to Boston by Dianne Day -- I read nearly all the Fremont Jones mysteries years ago, and with their turn-of-the-century San Francisco setting I've wanted to go back and reread them. "Autumn 1908 finds Caroline Fremont Jones and her partner in love and work, Michael Kossoff, traveling incognito, riding the rails from San Francisco to Boston. The railroad hired the sleuthing couple to investigate a series of accidents. But before they can solve the mystery, they become victims of the worst mishap yet when their train blows up near Salt Lake City."
4:50 from Paddington: A Miss Marple Mystery by Agatha Christie -- I've been reading the Miss Marple mysteries in the order they were published--it's about time I picked up the next one I think. "In 4:50 From Paddington, a woman in one train witnesses a murder occurring in another passing one…and only Miss Marple believes her story."
The Railway Detective by Edward Marston -- "In 1851 England, the city of London anticipates the grand opening of the Great Expedition. Excitement is mounting with each engineering triumph of the railways, but not everyone feels like celebrating. A sudden attack hits the London to Birmingham mail train and it is looted and derailed. Planned with military precision, Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck fights to untangle a web of murder, blackmail and destruction."
The Sleeping Car Murders by Sebastien Japrisot -- "A beautiful young woman lies sprawled on her berth in the sleeping car of the night train from Marseilles to Paris. She is not in the embrace of sleep, or even in the arms of one of her many lovers. She is dead. And the unpleasant task of finding her killer is handed to an overworked, crime-weary police detective named Pierre Emile Grazziano, nicknamed Grazzi, who would rather play hide-and-seek with his little son than cat and mouse with a diabolically cunning, savage murderer." I read nearly all of Japrisot's noir crime stories when they were reissued by Penguin in the 1990s--sadly they appear to have gone out of print again. Definitely worthy of rereads. And I mean to, of course. Reread them that is.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy -- Okay, a little tongue in cheek this one. But with the ending, it seemed like the perfect choice to end this list!
The eternal question . . . have you a good train novel (or nonfiction) to recommend?