**3.5-stars rounded up**
Murder on The Christmas Express is an engaging and dramatic Locked Room Mystery by Alexandra Benedict.
This story is set aboard a Sleeper Train, traveling from London to the Scottish Highlands, on Christmas Eve.
I have a thing for stories set on trains. It’s one of my favorite set-ups and this story did not disappointment in that regard.
I was a little nervous starting this one, since the overall rating seemed on the low-end for a newer release. I almost didn’t pick it up because of that. I’m so glad I ignored the rating and gave it a go. It sure paid off for me.
This story mainly follows Roz Parker, a former Met Detective, who is about to become a Grandmother for the first time. She’s traveling on the train to try to reach her pregnant daughter’s side before Christmas.
Unfortunately, due to a severe storm, the train schedules are a mess, with many routes cancelled. This Sleeper Train is the only way to get to the Highlands for the holiday.
Eighteen passengers. Seven stops. One killer.
That tagline sold me, and for the most part, I feel like this story delivered on that. It did give me what I was looking for. I’ll admit, initially, the writing style did feel a little wonky. It took me a minute to get myself grounded in this author’s style and to connect with the narrative voice.
I did end up enjoying Roz quite a bit. Her no-nonsense attitude drew me in. She’s tough, but she’s also at a turning point in her life and still grappling with some earlier trauma that’s had a hold on her ever since. In that regard, I found her realistic and relatable.
We did get various other perspectives as well and some of those were a little strange. I did feel most connected when I was reading from Roz’s perspective.
The other passengers are quite a mix and it was fun watching them all interact. There’s some real jerks aboard, make no mistake about that. I tend to really enjoy an unlikable cast of characters though, and that was definitely the case here.
There is a murder foreshadowed in the beginning and then it takes a wee bit to catch up with that event. I had a lot of theories as the story was building-out.
I liked how this is a true locked room mystery. That type of set-up, figuring out how the killer would have been able to achieve their goal is always so fun for me and I enjoyed Roz trying to piece it together here.
There were many red herrings and false leads. Enough to keep me engaged and guessing throughout. Some things I got right, others I didn’t, but regardless of the outcomes, I enjoyed scratching my head about it.
I think some Readers may have been turned off by the repetitive theme of sexual assault and its aftermath. I think perhaps this was marketed as a Cozy Mystery and you generally wouldn’t explore that type of thing to the depths that this story does in a Cozy.
I will say, for me, I didn’t think this was a Cozy going in, so didn’t end up having that experience with it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Cozy with a black cover, so when I picked this up, I was just expecting a straight-forward Adult Mystery, which I would argue this is.
Either way, Readers should be aware that this does discuss sexual assault, as well as abuse, in detail on page. If that could be triggering for you, proceed with caution.
For me, I was much more invested in the actual mystery than in the side details of the characters lives, so that portion of it didn’t really impact me. Further, I think just anticipating an Adult Mystery, versus a Cozy, I felt this fell right in line with my expectations.
While this isn’t perfect, I enjoyed it a lot. The ending dragged a bit, but I still felt it to be a solid Locked Room Mystery. The train setting was an absolute delight and I always love when inclement weather traps characters in an unsavory circumstance.
Thank you to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, for providing me a with a copy to read and review.
I had fun with this and would actually love to see another story with Roz Parker in the lead. Perhaps she can solve a New Years Eve murder next?