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Death Rides the Zephyr by Janet Dawson
Review by Verna Suit
Perseverance Press Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781564745309
Date: 09 September 2013 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

It's late December 1952 and the California Zephyr is filled with passengers traveling to points east for Christmas.

Jill McLeod, whose fiance was killed in the Korean War, is just as glad to fill her time during this emotional holiday working at her job as the train's hostess. As a Zephyrette, helping passengers with their needs and seeing to their dinner reservations, she becomes familiar with most of the travelers. She is also one of the first to know about several thefts aboard the train, and also a missing passenger. When another passenger is found murdered, Jill is in the middle of the investigation.

Death Rides the Zephyr is an engrossing murder mystery with enough suspicious people to provide multiple suspects. A late-in-the-story catastrophe raises the stakes and the suspense.

The book is also an unapologetic paeon to railroading, recreating the train travel experience of the 1950s. The pace of the narrative matches the pace of a train trip. We get to know the personnel routines, some of the passengers and their stories, and become familiar with the train. The route from Oakland to Chicago is described in vivid detail, as the train passes through Feather River Canyon, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, across the Great Basin, and over the Colorado Rockies.

It probably would help if the reader were a railfan to begin with. But if not, this period mystery is a lovely opportunity to become acquainted with an enjoyable mode of travel that deserves to be preserved. It also tells a nice story. So settle back and enjoy the ride.

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