Paris, 1914. American adventurer Sam Carter boards the Orient Express, departing France in style after an impulsive decision to desert the Foreign Legion. British diplomat Lucas Avery is already nursing a drink in the smoking car, resenting his assignment to the distant Ottoman Empire. Neither man expects anything more from the next three days and three thousand miles than rich food, expensive champagne and fine cigars.
But something dangerous is lurking aboard the train, hiding in plain sight among French aristocrats and German businessmen. Through fire and darkness, through blood and ice, the Orient Express is bearing an ancient evil across the continent – and not all its passengers will live to see Constantinople…
I loved Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Who didn’t? It’s a classic whodunit, written by the legendary murder goddess herself.
Shane Carrow takes that iconic murder mystery and adds vampires.
Proper, terrifying, vampires.
God, this book is gold.
Carrow comes to his writing in a spectacularly powerful way. His use of, and lack of, description was masterfully executed in the novel. He teases just the right amount of description, giving broad strokes to set the scene, but holds off on painstakingly explaining every detail, allowing readers to fill in the gaps themselves. I found this to be an exceptional way to come about it, as in the passages where horror and suspense are ratcheted up, the reader is left wondering which shadows house the monster stalking the train.
Building off that, the horror in this novel is superbly executed. My favorite element is the lack of knowing. There’s no conveniently placed folklorist on the train, ready to spout all the details known about vampires for our heroes. They use trial, error, luck, and observation to discover the best methods for dealing with the monster attacking the passengers. This lack of knowledge, then, lends itself to the tension of the plot: we know what harms vampires (well, I do, but I’ve been told that vampire slaying methods are not a suitable conversation topic for the dinner table before, so I might be in the minority in that regard), but Avery and Carter don’t. They have to tease out their battle strategy through observation and logic, relying on bedtime stories and half-remembered stories from the other passengers and past conversations to get to the truth. That brilliant inclusion really sold me on this novel, because for much (if not all) the novel, I felt like the vampire had the upper hand.
I devoured this book (sorry, not sorry for the vampire pun!) and I was so glad I stumbled upon this absolute gem. It captivated me from start to finish, which is high praise for any book. I definitely recommend sinking your teeth into it if you’re looking for a historical horror read. It won’t disappoint! 5 out of 5 stars!