Murder on the [insert train name here]
January 5, 2022 2:51 PM   Subscribe

I just finished reading a mystery novel set on a train. I would like to read some more. Please recommend some!

What I like about this subgenre of mystery:
- I quite like trains
- Most of the cast are strangers to each other (due to the nature of being a train passenger) and may all have interesting secrets
- The train as a microcosmic setting that moves through and is perhaps affected by the larger setting

Other notes:
- I have read Murder on the Orient Express.
- Beyond being set on a train, I am fine with any other setting or period details. However, I'm looking for books where the majority of the action takes place on the train. Two chapters on a train and then the rest of the action somewhere else is not what I want.
- I am not looking for books that want me to pay a lot of attention to train timetables. I have also read The Five Red Herrings and don't want to do so again.
- I would prefer to avoid explicit sexual violence if at all possible.

Bonus points for either:
- an "I've gathered you all here" ending with dramatic reveals
- an action sequence on top of a moving train
posted by darchildre to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
The Edge by Dick Francis is a murder mystery that takes place on a train that is hosting a week-long murder mystery party! Great fun.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:21 PM on January 5, 2022 [6 favorites]

The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White (the basis for Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes)
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
posted by microscopiclifeform at 3:30 PM on January 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Spinsters in Jeopardy and Vintage Murder, both by Ngaio Marsh.
posted by metonym at 3:44 PM on January 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Stamboul Train by Graham Greene which I read so long ago that I can’t remember but it takes place on the Orient Express and things happen.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:48 PM on January 5, 2022

So this is a sideways suggestion but I would be remiss if I didn't take this perfect opportunity to mention it.

Drawfee is a youtube channel that I like a whole bunch. Most of their schtick is saying funny stuff while they draw neat/funny things. Back in 2019 they started a series called Drawtectives, a murder mystery that's solved by saying funny stuff while drawing things. The Drawfee folks survived College Humor firing all of their employees (Drawfee used to be part of CH), fought to keep all their content, and kept their channel and Drawtectives going independently, survived covid, and finished strong.

So anyway, Drawtectives is back with a season 2, with a new mystery, guest voice acting, and a whole pile of new art. And this season is set ON A TRAIN. And the train is weird. They're 4 episodes in, releasing one episode a month, so it's not something you've gotta cram to catch up on or anything. Worth checking out if you're looking for something a little different.

Drawtectives playlist, includes all of season 1 and all new episodes as they come.
posted by phunniemee at 3:54 PM on January 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was coming to say The Edge.
posted by hoyland at 4:06 PM on January 5, 2022

Well, since you liked a train mystery by Agatha Christie, you will almost certainly like another by the same author: The mystery of the blue train
posted by splitpeasoup at 4:21 PM on January 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens is the third book in the Murder Most Unladylike series. It is YA, but the train setting is important to the plot. There is always a wrap-up type scene in this series, but no action scenes =)
posted by soelo at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2022

Another recommendation for The Edge by Dick Francis. Haven't read his books in a while, but always found his main characters to be quite likeable. Generally an average sort of person caught up in a strange situation, which they must now sort out and solve.
posted by dorey_oh at 6:44 PM on January 5, 2022

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins tells a story from three perspectives, one being a woman on a commuter train seeing the same houses go by every day, imagining the lives of the people who live in the houses. There is an unreliable narrator to add to the plot twists.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:05 PM on January 5, 2022

If you run out of train books, you may want to try The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. It’s set on a small cruise ship, but has the same feel as a train mystery, by a terrific author.
posted by Sukey Says at 10:10 PM on January 5, 2022

Seconding The Wheel Spins (and if you’re in the mood for a movie, The Lady Vanishes is so so good). Also The Man In Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Reinhardt. There may be a bit of action off-train if I remember correctly, but the main mystery takes place onboard.
posted by tinymojo at 12:15 AM on January 6, 2022

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka is more of a thriller than a murder mystery - but there are murders, it's lots of fun and entirely takes place on the Bullet Train in Japan.
posted by patricio at 2:09 AM on January 6, 2022

The difficult bit is going to be "majority of action takes place on a train". The two Marsh books listed above both have good railway scenes but in neither case does the majority of the action take place on a train. Michael Innes's Appleby's End starts with a good railway scene but moves on. You might like The Necropolis Railway, a mystery by Andrew Martin. And Edward Marston's Railway Detective series. I would recommend both. There's a list of railway books here; the only one of those I've read is the Freeman Wills Croft, which I wouldn't recommend. There's also a Martin Edwards / British Library collection of short stories, Blood on the Tracks: Railway Mysteries. I haven't read that one but have read several of the others and they are usually good value.
posted by paduasoy at 3:36 AM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

There seems to be a whole sub-genre about murders on the California Zephyr. See Janet Dawson as one author.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:24 AM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Lady Vanishes -- originally titled The Wheel Spins (1936) by Ethel Lina White -- a 1938 film derived from the novel which is a favorite of mine by Hitchcock, centers on a train. Mystery, murders, attempted murders and mayhem. I favor the film but ... there is the original, still being reviewed on goodreads.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 8:54 AM on January 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Leslie Charteris - The Saint Overboard
posted by Billiken at 1:13 PM on January 6, 2022

The Napoli Express is a novella by Randall Garret set in an alternate timeline where magic exists and is used forensically. It is set on a train.

If you like it, there are a few other novellas and a bunch of short stories, none other of which is set on a train. The best of these is Too Many Magicians, which is partly a pastiche. If you would recognize the subject, you’ll recognize the form of the title.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:49 PM on January 6, 2022

« Older Looking for rigid steel 6" and 12" rulers with...   |   Who will bring back, bring back, bring back my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.