Review: Night Train to Murder by Simon R. Green

When a body is discovered in a locked toilet cubicle on the late-night train to Bath, Ishmael Jones is faced with his most puzzling case to date.

When Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are asked to escort a VIP on the late-night train to Bath, it would appear to be a routine case. The Organisation has acquired intelligence that an attempt is to be made on Sir Dennis Gregson’s life as he travels to Bath to take up his new position as Head of the British Psychic Weapons Division. Ishmael’s mission is to ensure that Sir Dennis arrives safely.

How could anyone orchestrate a murder in a crowded railway carriage without being noticed and with no obvious means of escape? When a body is discovered in a locked toilet cubicle, Ishmael Jones has just 56 minutes to solve a seemingly impossible crime before the train reaches its destination.

Night Train to Murder by Simon R. Green. Book # 8 in the Ishmael Jones series. Kindle edition is 192 pages. Publishing date(s?) are a little confusing…? I think it was first published by Severn House Publishers in the UK November 2019, but a world published edition is coming out March 3, 2020.

I received a kindle edition of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

YAY! Not another locked house in a rural area setting!! That was literally my first thought with this book. I know this series’ theme revolves around locked room type stories, but the settings were all starting to get too samezies. The last couple of books in the series, Simon has been doing a better job of getting Ishmael and Penny in new locations yet still having a locked room feel.

I loved that we are on a train for this one. Very fun. You get to have your locked room thing going on, yet you are on a moving train so it doesn’t feel as remote or isolated as if you were stuck in a house in the middle of nowhere. It was also a nice nod to Agatha Christie.

Another nice change up Simon has made in this book, is that it doesn’t feel as cut and paste with some of the conversations between Ishmael and Penny. I don’t have examples off the top of my head, but I’ve covered this problem in past reviews for this series. For several of the books, Ishmael and Penny felt like they kept having the same exact conversations, to the letter basically, in each book. Not even a change up in what words were used to say their lines. To me it had felt very cut, copy, and paste from one book to another. It made their relationship very boring and not interesting.

In Night Train to Murder, thankfully (!!!) Simon has really added new life to Penny and Ishmael’s chemistry and conversations. They felt much more like real people talking together instead of just dolls with a pull string repeating their catchphrases. You still have a few spots where they wink and say their cheeky little phrase, but it is refreshed (new words are used, new ways of saying the witty come back, etc.) and feels 100% revitalized and less cliched! So thank you so much, Simon, for another nice switch up to the series! 😀

Night Train is a very entertaining addition to the series. I love the positive changes made by the author. I loved the setting. I also really enjoyed seeing the subplot about psychics. It felt like a subtle tie to one of Simon’s other series (The Ghost Finders, which, by the way, I LOVE! And I’m a big fan of Happy! ❤ ) that featured a lot of psychics. So that was pretty cool to me.

And speaking of psychics, there is a really nice WTF twist at the very, very end. A psychic helps Ishmael with something and it is a big set up for a future book(s?) in the series, and I for one can not wait to see what happens with that! 😮

Now… I really liked this book. I found it pretty entertaining. BUT… I did have a few small problems with it that were…. kinda… hard to ignore. D:

For starters… OMFG, Ishmael!! Why? WHY are you so TERRIBLE at keeping people alive?? Every. Single. Time. He is supposed to protect someone, they end up dead!! How is he the Organisations lead agent when everyone he is supposed to protect DIES?? Yeah, ok… sure, he solves the murder every time, but still! Come on! Have one of the other main characters get killed off and then Ish has to find the murderer WHILE still trying to protect the person he is there to guard. Like, I get it… it’s a good set up to have that person getting killed, and that forces Ish to find out what happened on his watch, blah blah blah. But… it just makes Ishmael look so bad every time. Seriously, it is starting to get a little ridiculous. *Shrug* At least all the other characters in Night Train managed to not get killed. So that is a slight improvement.

My other hard-to-ignore complaint is… Holy face palm, Ishmael. DUDE. How did you NOT know so-and-so was the killer?? How did he never even think “Maybe that person?” Like, it never even crosses Ishmael’s mind at all to question what so and so said or did. The killer felt so extremely obvious from the very beginning… which wasn’t even my main complaint! My complaint is that Ishmael is better then this. He is smarter, craftier then what he was like in this book. Basically Ish sits around and spins his wheels the whole time staring at people. Like, he was TOO stumped by the lack of clues.

When the main character is this stumped for clues through a majority of the book, and there isn’t much forward movement in main plot, the whole middle part of the book just starts to feel like a lot of filler. And that, my friends, is NOT a good thing to have!

I’ve run into this problem with a few of the other books in the series. :/ Hopefully the author can work on that in future books for Ish. I mean, I get that Ishmael’s mind was preoccupied 95% of time, but still… it just felt too obvious for someone with his level of experience in life, crime and murder, you know?

Even though Ishmael solving the murder was uber frustrating, and I wanted to constantly scream at him who the killer was, while simultaneously high-fiving his face, I still enjoyed the book. Normally if I feel like I can predict who the killer is so quickly, it kind ruins the book for me… but, I don’t know. It was still fun! I was entertained. I liked the supporting characters. Penny was so much more tolerable this time around that I actually kinda…. liked her for once. 😮 And the other changes that the author has made in this book (stale conversations, repetition in dialogue as well as vocab choices, lack of chemistry, etc.) are a breath of fresh air in the series. I think that really helped this book feel so different (then the rest of the series).

Now if only the author can give more clues to Ishmael so he isn’t stumped for 80% of the book, that would be awesome. 🙂

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