This Train by James Grady

It’s a privilege to close the blog tour for This Train by James Grady. My thanks to Sarah at Oldcastle Books and No Exit Press for inviting me to participate. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by No Exit Press on 16th June 2022, This Train is available for purchase through the links here.

This Train

The new novel from the acclaimed author of Six Days of the Condor, set on a heart-pounding cross-country train ride.

This Train races us through America’s heartland, carrying secrets. There is treasure in the cargo car, along with an invisible puppeteer. There is a coder named Nora, Mugzy, the yippy dog, and Ross, the too-curious poet. On board, it’s a countdown to murder…

On this train there is a silver madman, a targeted banker, and crises of conscience. This train harbors the “perfect” couple’s conspiracies, the chaos of being a teenager, and parenthood alongside the wows of being nine. There is a widow and a wannabe, and the sleaziest billionaire.

On this train, there is the suicide ticket, the bomb, sex, love, and loneliness. The heist. Revenge. Redemption.

This Train is a ticking clock, roaring through forty-seven fictional hours of non-stop suspense and action, through the challenges of now: Racism. Sexism. Global warming. What it means to be alive.

This train carries all of us. All aboard!

My Review of This Train

The train is about to depart.

I confess that when I first started reading This Train I felt slightly shell shocked. James Grady opens with a sparse style reminiscent of watching a flickering film noir, with a hint of menace that took me a few pages to attune myself to. It’s almost as if, alongside the characters, he places the reader inside a slightly manic mind where they hear another person’s whirling thoughts. I thought this was a hugely effective and unsettling atmosphere. The sense of menace is also created by the variety of sentence structure and unusual compound adjectives that paint dramatic images in the reader’s head. The writing frequently mirrors the sound and rhythm of a train on rail tracks so that it becomes more intense as a result.

The characters are numerous and seem to represent every facet of American society in microcosm. Whilst they are vivid and clear, my personal taste would have preferred fewer, although I think James Grady had to include so many to create the frenetic, almost febrile sensation and atmosphere that permeates This Train. Indeed, the plot races along and the brevity of the chapters adds to the fast pace. There’s a frantic pace that is so exciting, balanced by more prosaic aspects that works really well.

Although This Train is relatively brief, it embodies layer upon layer of themes from identity to conspiracy, family to state, memory to fear and so much more in a whirling maelstrom. It reminded me a bit of a kind of modern Boccaccio’s The Decameron. I feel that I would need to reread This Train many times truly to get below the surface of everything that is going on. I think it would make a brilliant film or television series.

This Train won’t suit all readers. I found its style, its innovative approach and its pace breath-taking. I can’t decide if I enjoyed it, but I certainly admired it! I really recommend you read it for yourself to decide what you think.

About James Grady

James Grady has published more than a dozen novels, a handful of short stories, and worked in both feature films and television. His first novel, Six Days of the Condor, became the classic Robert Redford movie Three Days Of The Condor and the current Max Irons TV series Condor. Grady has been both US Senate aide and a national investigative reporter. He has received Italy’s Raymond Chandler Medal, France’s Grand Prix Du Roman Noir and Japan’s Baka-Misu literature award, two Regardie Magazine short story awards, and been a Mystery Writers of America Edgar finalist. In 2008, Grady was named as one of the Telegraph’s 50 crime writers to read before you die, and in 2015 the Washington Post compared his prose to George Orwell and Bob Dylan. He has two children and lives with his wife inside Washington, DC’s beltway.

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