My fascination with trains began well before I realized that I wanted to be a writer. In fact, it was probably a train journey that first led me down the writing track. Bad pun aside, I did write my first poem after a train ride to Puri as a little girl. The poem was published in a magazine called Friends, not in circulation anymore. I still remember the first four lines:
If you are going to the sea
Please take me
For that’s the place
I’m longing to be.
I learnt much later that train journeys have provided fodder for many famous writers. One of my favourites, Agatha Christie, has written several murder mysteries that feature trains. 4.50 from Paddington is about a woman who witnesses a woman being strangled on a train that runs parallel to hers. The Murder on the Orient Express and The Mystery of the Blue Train are some of her other novels with trains in them.
Train also feature prominently on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. Then, there is the famous E Nesbit novel, The Railway Children and a thrilling climax on Ian’s Fleming’s From Russia With Love. More recently, there is Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train where a woman witnesses an incident from the train that sets her off on a bizarre journey of her own. The delightful Harry Potter series is full of stations and train journeys much like Enid Blyton’s popular Malory Towers and St Clare’s books. Closer home, there is Satyajit Ray’s Feluda series. Shonar Kella for instance where Feluda and Topshe meet Jatayu who becomes a dear friend and goes on many adventures with them.
Two of my short stories published by Juggernaut Books feature trains as a backdrop to incidents in the lives of protagonists. In The Magazine Seller, a young woman meets a man selling magazines on the train she boards to get to university. In A Chance Encounter, two people in unhappy marriages are drawn to each other while travelling in the same train compartment. Click on the links to read them.
Do you have any favourite train stories to add to this list?
I have often wondered why murder mysteries are referred to as delicious. I have used the term myself on several occasions but death isn’t very savoury, is it? Or sweet for that matter. So why does fictional crime get our literary tastebuds tingling? As far as I know, Agatha Christie, the Grand Dame of murder mysteries first introduced the term in one of her books. She writes about a Delicious Death cake in A Murder is Announced.
The cake is “rich, rich, of a melting richness” and the ingredients needed include “chocolate and much butter, and sugar and raisins”. The cake also has chocolate frosting and “Good Wishes” written on top. In fact, the cake is the last thing one of the characters in the story eats. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind bidding my last farewell with a cake like that. Death by chocolate cake.
Before I start rambling on the topic of food, let me get back on track and tell you about some delicious … erm … delightful murder mysteries I’ve read this year. It’s been such a wretched year that I’m surprised I got any reading done. But there’s something very comforting about curling up with a gripping detective novel. You know a crime has been committed and there’s a vicious killer on the loose but there’s redemption. Evil will ultimately be punished in the fictional world.
The Sentence is Death – Anthony Horowitz
This was my third Horowitz novel and to say that I loved it would be an understatement. The way the author blends reality with fiction in his novels in masterful as is the first-person narrative. I loved the fact that there was a Bengali in the book. I chuckled quite a bit when she and her son were introduced.
The Suspect – Fiona Barton
Barton is one of my favourite authors. I’ve read all her books. She weaves a fast-paced gripping plot that switches between Bangkok & Britain effortlessly. It is chilling but heart-breaking at the same time. Every parent’s worst nightmare come true. I found the reverse narrative method of storytelling particularly intriguing. Barton is one hell of a storyteller.
Salvation of a Saint – Keigo Higashino,
One author I keep coming back to and he never disappoints. Keigo Higashino is a master of his craft. He never fails to surprise me. You think he’s given away the plot right at the beginning and you are confused. How can it be that simple? But the man draws you in and keeps you turning the pages in anticipation with twists and turns along the way. Every. Single. Time.
The Aosawa Murders – Riku Onda
“Connections to people are a curious thing.”
This one was a gift from a generous friend on Twitter and I’m really grateful I got a chance to read this book. However, hype notwithstanding, The Aosawa Murders didn’t work for me. It started well but the narrative style was confusing. Personally I like crime stories with closure. This one didn’t give me that.
The Detective Diaries – Supratim Sarkar
The Detective Diaries, gripping accounts of 11 case files of the Kolkata Police, is a sequel to Sarkar’s brilliant Murder in the City. Having read about many of the cases in the newspapers, it was fascinating to find out about the criminal minds at work behind them. The only thing that put a dampener on the plot was the translation. It could have been better.
Moonflower Murders – Anthony Horowitz
I got to read two of his books this year so I’m taking that as a silver lining. A book within a book, that requires you to use your “little grey cells.” Besides, one is in the company of writers, the best kind of company really — even if they are fictional. This was unputdownable. Just don’t read this before you’ve read Magpie Murders. You need to be able to connect the dots.
The Newcomer – Keigo Higashino
My second Higashino this year, Newcomer started well but the narrative lost steam midway. Not as compelling as his other novels. Malice remains my #1.
The Legacy – Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
The Legacy was terrifying & gut-wrenching in equal measure. Be warned, this book is not for the faint-hearted! I’d be interested in reading some of her other novels.
Murder in Midsummer: Classic Mysteries for the Holidays
Nothing like a good (fictional) murder to take your mind off things. A fabulous collection of stories from some of the masters of crime fiction including one of my favourites, Ruth Rendell. Plenty of sun, sand and corpses. An enjoyable collection.
No Trespassing – Brinda S Narayan
A book that stunned me with its sheer brilliance – I finished it in one sitting over a few hours. Gripping plot with terrifying twists and fluid writing. A must-read thriller like nothing I’ve read before.
Before I sign off, this is not a paid post. None of these authors paid me to write about them. I write a thread on my favourite books on Twitter every year and this is just a compilation of that thread. Happy Reading and Merry Christmas in advance!