Like the murder in a country house, a crime on a train in passage has become a staple of mystery novels. Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express leaps to mind. The space is confined, as is the number of suspects, and the time in which the detective must identify the culprit is limited.
Author Simon R. Green brings his own inimitable twist to this classic model, beginning with his highly unusual detective, Ishmael Jones – who not only works for a highly secret agency but is himself not exactly human. In fact, not human at all, and bent on keeping that a secret, too. With his charming (human) companion, Penny, he’s been dispatched to protect one of the train passengers, the newly appointed and much disliked Head of the British Psychic Weapons Division. Ismael’s mission is unbeknownst to both the Head, his body guard, his agency, and of course the other passengers. When the Head is found murdered – in the loo (aka rest room) – a true “locked room” mystery if there was one – Ismael and Penny spring into action, questioning everyone, reconstructing the time line, and trying to prevent another murder. Each passenger has their own story, a bit like the characters in Rashomon, and their own secrets that they are desperate to keep hidden.
Green handles all this with a seemingly effortless finesse and attention to character as he guides the story through plot twists and revelations, always “playing fair” with the reader, yet not giving away the surprising resolution until the very end.