Billed as a 'Heart-Warming Holiday Tale' ('holiday' in this instance means Christmas), I looked forward to some light reading over the festive period. And I loved the cover, which shows a steam engine in the snow. Lovely.
The story is about a journalist who decides to follow the same railway route that Mark Twain did in 1872 and to record the journey. A 'trip of soul-searching and personal discovery' from the east to the west of the United States. Plus, everyone is trying to get home for Christmas.
Straight away we meet the other passengers, some stereotypes (the star-crossed lovers for one, the aggressive lawyer another) all with their own baggage. There is a down to Earth, plain speaking woman who gives sage advice who could well be an angel. Oh yes, and the love that got away.
Throughout, the parallels with Twain's record are highlighted, which is interesting. The 'mystery' element is an on-board thief who steals such items as a pen, sunglasses, a hairbrush and a money clip. With so many lovely people on board it's hard to guess who the thief might be.
Baldacci certainly knows trains and his descriptions are intricate and a little too technical for me. Given the amount of territory he covers I would prefer a bit more detail on the unique landscape. I have practically no idea what the terrain looks like in this part of America. Except for snow, lots and lots of snow.
The writing is clear and concise, which is what I would expect from a successful thriller writer. This, however, is romance with Christmas miracles thrown in and, towards the end, a little far-fetched suspense to boot. But hey, it's Christmas.
Definitely an upbeat, feelgood book, just right for Christmas if taken with plenty of mulled wine and sherry.
Published 4 November 2002. Pan; Reprints edition (16 May 2011
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