First things first, my family bloody love trains. We get especially excited about steam trains. It fills me with absolute joy that my niece is finally reaching an age where she’s starting to want to play with our old train set. She’s still not quite got to grips with it but it gives me plenty of excuses to play with it myself. I could easily see myself becoming one of those model train people. If I had enough room, I’d definitely set one up permanently. So, as you can probably tell, I was really excited at the prospect of a series of children’s mysteries set on trains. It was everything I could have wanted.
The Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, understood the power of the train. There is something magical about a proper train journey. Being able to see the landscape change as you sit in comfort is a great thing. They also make a fantastic setting for a mystery. Not only are you limited to the number of suspects but pretty much everyone around you is a stranger. You can’t trust anyone. It would take a very good detective to discover the truth if a crime were committed on a train.
Playing detective is not something that Harrison Beck expects to be doing when he is forced to board the Highland Falcon with his uncle. Nate is a journalist covering the train’s final journey. Also on board are a famous actress, a train tycoon and a royal couple. When some priceless jewels go missing, accusations start flying amongst the travellers. Harrison notices a few odd things onboard and starts investigating. Can he uncover the secrets that his fellow passengers are hiding and get the jewels back?
I absolutely loved this story. It was fast-paced and definitely exciting. With so many clues to follow, younger readers will enjoy investigating along with Hal. It’s not an impossible mystery to solve but I do understand that I’m quite a bit older than the intended readers. So, the fact that I figured it out quite early on isn’t an indication of the story itself. There are definite clues for younger readers but not so much that they’ll get bored. It’s a very engaging story.
The characters are also a lot of fun. Each one is larger than life and well-written. They’re the kind of stock children’s book characters but that’s no bad thing. Hal is the perfect protagonist and shows plenty of character development along the way. He starts the story as a reluctant passenger who has been sent away while his mother has a baby. He quickly becomes interested in the train and starts to have fun. He also becomes much more outspoken and brave as the investigation goes on. Although, I still think he is written as a real child. Sometimes kids can appear too mature but Hal still seems childlike.
I guess my only real criticism is that the story kind of meanders a bit. There are moments when things take a bit of time to get moving but I don’t think this really slows the pace down. It shouldn’t cause any problems for younger readers and I’m sure they’ll have fun with this. It’s a fun concept and I can’t wait to read more of this series. I would also recommend reading the physical book instead of listening to the audiobook. You miss the illustrations that accompany the story, which adds a great extra layer.