Good morning! Today I’m sharing my thoughts on four of the Adventures on Trains series. I’d previously reviewed The Highland Falcon Thief and you can find that review here. The second and third books in the series I read last year, and my reviews are based on my notes from the time. The fourth and fifth books I have only just finished.
Kidnap on the California Comet sees Hal and his Uncle Nat on their second train journey, this time travelling across America. This isn’t to be a nice relaxing break for Hal though when the daughter of a very rich entrepreneur is kidnapped. Something isn’t quite right though, and Hal takes it upon himself to discover the truth.
I enjoyed this second adventure every bit as much as the first. The movement across the pond meant it wasn’t a journey I was particularly familiar with, unlike my regular train trips between Scotland and the south. While I must confess to missing Lenny, Hal’s sidekick from the first novel I did enjoy meeting Mason and Hadley and following them as they helped Hal investigate Marianne’s kidnapping!
A trip on the Safari Star is Hal’s wonderful Christmas gift from Uncle Nat. But his his turns deadly as someone is murdered during their luxurious train journey across South Africa.
A wonderful third adventure with Hal and Uncle Nat. I loved the descriptions of the landscape and the animals and despite the murder it’s definitely the sort of trip I would like to take! There was a really interesting and satisfying mystery, the most serious Hal and Uncle Nate have solved to dat and once again there’s a new sidekick accompanying Hal and this time it’s Winston, the son of the train’s safari guide, and Chipo his yellow mongoose. I’m absolutely a sucker for an animal sidekick so I loved seeing Chipo’s cheeky nature shine through throughout the story.
Alexander Kratzenstein is found dead, seemingly of natural causes but the look of terror in his eyes suggests something more sinister may be the case. One of the family members is familiar with Hal and Uncle Nat after travelling on the Highland Falcon with them and enlists their help to look into the mystery. Soon the pair are in Germany and Hal is in the middle of something that goes far deeper than he could possibly imagine.
What a fabulous 4th addition to this series. Book after book M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman manage to create intriguing and fun mysteries. It was great to see the return of the Baron from The Highland Falcon Thief and I enjoyed the slightly changed dynamic of Hal and Uncle Nat being sought out to assist in looking into a mystery rather than just happening to find themselves in the middle of one.
I loved the setting off this one, up in the snowy mountains really added just the right amount of atmosphere to the story to make it a little creepy. I also really loved Hal’s companions in this book, Hilda, Ozan and Herman made for a great group of characters. I especially resonated with Hilda, her love of reading and especially the detective stories reminded me of the Famous Five books I read as a ten year old. I think it was particularly important that this group of characters worked well together as I feel like Uncle Nat featured a lot less than he had in previous stories although I did like the additional backstory we got during this adventure.
This adventure sees Hal and Uncle Nat travelling to Australia to be passengers on the inaugural Solar Express journey. The trip from Alice Springs is the first to be pulled by a brand-new prototype engine, the result of a Reza design competition. As always there’s no such thing as a simple journey for these two travelling detectives!
Without a doubt Sabotage on the Solar Express is the most high-octane adventure yet for Hal and Uncle Nat! I really felt the tension build during this story and the stakes are certainly as high as they have ever been for our favourite duo. I could definitely tell that the story had be inspired by action films, I was certainly getting Speed and Unstoppable vibes from this one, it was excellent!
As in Danger at Dead Man’s Pass, we see the return of some former characters, this time August, and Marianne Reza from Kidnap on the California Comet. I wasn’t overly keen on Marianne in that story, but I really enjoyed the character development during the course of this adventure. Apparently being stuck on a runaway train brings out a surprising level of maturity pretty quickly!
The other character central to the story is Boaz, the 14-year-old responsible for the winning design. I found him such a likeable character; I also loved the fact it was a young person that came up with the winning design. I genuinely think young people have such potential to come up with revolutionary ideas as they’re not yet locked into the cycle of this is the way we’ve always done things and so this is how we do it. I thought his younger sister JJ was adorable and I loved the fact his mum was a pilot for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
One final thing to mention which goes across all four books I’ve reviewed above is the wonderful illustrations by Elisa Paganelli and the way she brings the stories to life. I really love her style of illustration and I don’t think Hal’s unique detecting style would be half as believable to the reader if it weren’t for the wonderful recreations of Hal’s drawings that Elisa produces!
That’s me for the day! I hope you’ve enjoyed my round up of books 2-5 of the Adventures on Trains series. I’m now eagerly awaiting The Arctic Railway Assassin towards the end of the year! Do let me know if you’ve read them!