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Trans-Mongolian Express
David L. Robbins
Inspired by Warren Adler’s Trans-Siberian Express, this historical mystery from Robbins (War of the Rats) revisits the Soviet Union in 1986 following the aftermath of the Chernobyl meltdown. In Beijing, scientist and diplomat Dr. Lara Dill and former Swedish Special Forces agent Björn Lindberg are sent to the Soviet Union by their governments to try to uncover the extent of the danger from the meltdown at Chernobyl. They travel from Beijing on the Trans-Mongolian Express along with a compelling international cast with a host of motives, both stated and not. Maxim Sprygin tells the travelers that, as a representative of the Intourist Travel Agency, he is responsible for escorting foreign tourists through the Soviet Union, informing them that they may not be permitted to disembark before the final destination.

Robbins’s deftly developed intrigue and characters make this a truly engrossing novel, especially as the journey hits a major jolt: when Maxim’s body is thrown from the train, Mongolian Police Chief Bat boards the train to investigate the possible murder. Robbins’s companions journeying across the Gobi Desert make intriguing discoveries about one another, especially as Anton learns that Timur was a mujahideen and Lara discovers that Gang is an assassin. These revelations increase the mutual distrust and heighten the suspense.

But despite the intrigue and deceptions, unlikely allies form. Lara and Gang become lovers, and he is determined to protect her despite her protests. And though there is a sort of love/hate relationship between Timur and Anton, and at times Anton fears Timur will kill him, Timur also exhibits a somewhat protective nature towards Anton. Yet all of these contradictions add intrigue to the magnetic suspense, leaving readers to race to the conclusion to discover who will actually survive the train journey and what fate awaits at journey’s end.

Takeaway: Gripping journey across the Gobi Desert, complete with murder.

Comparable Titles: Warren Adler’s Trans-Siberian Express: A Cold War Thriller,Stuart M. Kaminsky’s Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A