MURDER ON THE CHRISTMAS EXPRESS
Poisoned Pen Press
October 5, 2023
One might expect a cozy mystery by looking at the cover, or at least I did. All the Poirot-esque elements are certainly here but in a much more modern, darker form. Just retired London Metropolitan detective Roz Parker took a first-class ticket to Scotland on the last overnight Express before Christmas. She must arrive on time as her daughter is in labor, and Roz has somehow managed to miss most of the significant events of her life.
The train has a very motley crew of travelers on board. We first meet Meg, a social media influencer taking the train to post updates and sell some products. Meg is obviously in trouble with her boyfriend, Grant. Grant is a reality TV star who is handsome and can be charming but is also belittling, and there are more than hints of physical violence. Meg is terrified of him but also alarmingly co-dependent. We also have a put-upon husband with a herd of children and a drunken wife. A group of university students are on their way to Scotland to participate in a trivia contest on TV. An elderly woman and her son, and a mousy young woman who doesn't seem to fit in anywhere. Roz takes her under her wing but has her own problems because her daughter's labor has become life-threatening. When the train grinds to a halt in a blizzard, and bodies keep dropping, Roz must take things in hand to find the killer.
Murder on the Christmas Express tackles issues never seen in the cozy genre; sexual violence, rape, and the lasting effects of trauma. It also has the most unattractive cast of characters, except Roz and a few others I have ever encountered. What did I like about Murder on the Christmas Express? The plotting was excellent, with one twist, turn, and misdirection after the other. It definitely kept me reading until the end to see who the killer might be. I'm giving it 3 Stars based on that page-turning quality and the somewhat hopeful turn of events at the novel's close.
Thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.