Title: Murder on the Christmas Express
Author: Alexandra Benedict
Eighteen passengers. Seven stops. One killer.
In the early hours of Christmas Eve, the sleeper train to the Highlands is derailed, along with the festive plans of its travellers. With the train stuck in snow in the middle of nowhere, a killer stalks its carriages, picking off passengers one by one. Those who sleep on the sleeper train may never wake again.
Can former Met detective Roz Parker find the killer before they kill again?
This book has content warnings for sexual assault, rape, domestic abuse and violence and traumatic pregnancy and birth stories.
I am in two minds about this one as it was good, well written and well paced mystery but I feel it wasn’t the book that was sold in the blurb. This book feels like it is being sold as a cosy Christmas themed mystery especially with all the quizzes and anagrams and games that the author has included. These are a lot of fun and keep you on your toes as you try to spot them while reading.
However, this felt at odds with the overall subject matter of the book. It deals with a lot of heavy topics from traumatic births to rape which don’t match the cosy vibes that the marketing has insinuated. Initially there are lots of nods to Christies Train based classics but it slowly looses those vibes as we start to discover more about the past of the train’s passengers. We uncover stories of domestic abuse and sexual assault all while our detective is dealing with her own memories and past as she tries to rush home to her daughter who is about to give birth.
I really liked Roz as a character. She was a very strong character with a detailed background and as an ex MET officer she was a very believable investigator. Making the investigation easy for the reader to follow. I do feel this did have a lot of set up and was also rather repetitive at points. Lots of elements were repeatedly stated yet they didn’t have any relevance to the outcome. It kind of felt there was something a little off with the editing. It felt like there was a lot of potential to Roz as a character but we never really got there as we sort of got stuck in a loop of events in her past. The big reveal of what happened to her didn’t have the impact it should have as we had got so many little elements of it that the story just felt repetitive. It attempted to tackle really important and deep topics but didn’t really give them the true depth they needed as the cosy mystery format was still trying to be held to.
Also as a Scot I loved that there were so many Scottish characters but there were a lot of elements and references to Scotland which were wrong. One of the characters was a Scottish 6th form teacher yet we don’t have 6th form collages in Scotland, our education system is very different from the English system. Attention was also drawn to the Scottish word ‘outwith’ with at one point the main character saying its use reminded her of home. Yet it was used in the wrong context with the wrong definition. This is me just being pedantic, but for a book that takes great care to place quizzes and anagrams within its pages I expect great care in its details.
Overall I did enjoy reading this. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all but it was still entertaining enough that I read it in one day. It is well constructed and despite some editing issues does make for an interesting who-dun-it, with darker and important themes.