Title: On Track for Murder (Goodreads | Amazon)
Author(s): Stephen Childs
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Published: September 1st 2015 by Clink Street Publishing
I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Her father stabbed to death, her brother caught with the bloody murder weapon, and her stepmother suspiciously missing: eighteen year old Abigail Sergeant is forced into a dangerous cross country adventure to uncover the truth and bring the real killer to justice.
Travelling from England to Australia in the late nineteenth-century, Abigail and her naive younger brother hope that reuniting with their father — and his new wife — will offer them security. What awaits them on the shores of the Swan River dashes any prospects of a blissful life.
Discovering her father murdered and her brother seemingly caught red handed, Abigail’s life is thrown into turmoil. The police are convinced of Bertrand’s guilt, but Abigail is determined to prove his innocence, whatever it takes.
I am thankful to have been invited to the holiday event hosted by Clink Street Publishing, 12 Days of Clink Street, where the bloggers participating will review books from this publisher every day for the first 12 days of December. You can expect two reviews from me during this event – this is the first one, and the second one will be published on December 8th. You can find the banner with the full schedule at the bottom of my review.
I like a man I can converse with on an equal footing. How is your knowledge of new technologies and industrial progress?
I was curious about On Track for Murder for multiple reasons: 1) I’ve been meaning to read more historical fantasy, 2) I am always interested in an amateur detective story, especially with a female protagonists, 3) it has siblings!, 4) the title combined with the fact that this book is about trains is definitely a pun.
The book follows Abigail, the main character, who arrives to Australia with her brother – Bertrand, who almost certainly has autism, but the word is never used. Due to the time period, he is described in rather ableist terms such as “slow”, “naive” or “simple”. While his sister and father are both supportive and loving, he experiences considerable ableism from his surroundings and his step-mother.
When their father is murdered, Bertrand is accused, and it’s up to Abigail to prove his innocence, because the local detectives can’t be bothered to do their jobs right. On her quest, she has a companion, Constable Dunning, who is really not as reluctant as the blurb suggests.
Let’s start with the positives: I loved Abigail’s character from the beginning. She reads Jules Verne and likes Mary Shelley, and she has a passion for progress, an interest in the industrial revolution, as well as trains and engineering. (Just look at the quote I put at the beginning of this review – damn.) During the plot’s troubles – such as kidnapping, betrayal and so on – she had some really heroic moments and creative solutions, and while she had to be saved a couple of times, she also did more than enough saving others. Without much spoilers I can say that towards the end my respect for her grew even more when she considered her future options and made a mature choice for herself. I also found the developing romance sweet, if a little rushed. There were a few lines that really made me squee.
That being said, I wasn’t always impressed with the plot. There was indeed some mystery around the exact circumstances and participants of the murder, but honestly the main killer and even the motive was quite obvious from the beginning – to the reader, at least. Abigail and Dunning only find out quite late, despite the numerous clues staring them in the face, and then it’s treated as a twist. I have to say, I was disappointed in this part of the plot.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, mainly for the characters, but I kept waiting for a compelling twist when it came to the murder, and unfortunately that didn’t come.
trigger warnings: ableism (towards an autistic character), attempted sexual assault, murder
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