Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Adelaide to Darwin through the Outback on a legendary train

 Benjamin Stevenson #2
 Mariner Books
 January 30, 2024

I have been eagerly awaiting Everyone on This Train is a Suspect since last year's Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone. It was, hands down, my favorite mystery novel of 2023. It was highly satisfactory, a clever and inventive take on the tropes inherent in "Golden Age" mystery fiction, with a fair amount of violence mixed in for a more modern audience. Thanks to NetGalley and Mariner Books for an advance reading copy.

This time, our "hero," Ernest Cunningham, has been invited aboard The Ghan, a legendary and lavish train traveling through the Australian Outback from Adelaide to Darwin. It's a very different setting from the previous book, the snowy mountains of New South Wales, but just as dangerous in an Australian high summer. The reason for the trip is the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Australian Mystery Writers Society. Ern's actual crime book about his family has done very well, and Elizabeth (his girlfriend we met in the prior book) is along. Elizabeth, too, wrote a book about their experiences.

The train is full of mystery fiction luminaries, primarily the Scots writer Henry McTavish, whose next book is the end of a long-running and very lucrative series. The rest of the train comprises a motley crew of lesser writers, agents, rabid fans, warring publishers, and one very "literary" writer who is above it all. The connections between these disparate characters run deep and are only sometimes cordial. The first murder comes as no real surprise, but as others pile on, Ern sets out in his own fashion despite the danger.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and I found them easy to lose track of. They did not seem quite as well drawn as Ern's family. Still, I recommend this book highly because of Ern's distinctive and snarky voice. He needs to have more regard for his personal safety, or he will not be around for long. There is quite a twist at the end, related by Elizabeth, that I did not see coming!

RATING- 4 Stars


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