The Gone Dead Train
by Lisa Turner
Release Date: July 22, 2014
2014 William Morrow Paperbacks
Softcover Edition; 320 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher
3.5 / 5 Stars
After time away to
recover from the aftermath of a horrible case that left his partner
dead, Billy’s back in Memphis, drawn into an ever-widening murder
mystery that focuses on flawed heroes: a disgraced major league baseball
player, two legendary blues musicians on the lam, a straight-arrow lady
cop tortured by a guilty conscience, and two iconic civil rights
warriors with secrets so dark they’ll shock the nation.
When he stops a crime from being committed, he finds himself embroiled
in a much bigger scandal. A murder that has just taken place has
connections to a series of much older crimes dating back to the civil
rights movement. As he investigates, Billy uncovers so many layers of
secrets he can barely keep the truth from the lies. And he knows the
straight-laced cop assigned to the case is hiding something big. But is
it connected to the case? This time he’s determined to make sure he
finds out the truth before anything else can happen. But as the search
for truth with the help of a Santeria Priest leads him deeper into the
underbelly of Memphis, will Billy make it out alive?
The Gone Dead Train is one of those mysteries that I enjoyed as I thought the characters were entertaining and I really liked the setting, Memphis, Tennessee. It's one of those novels where you enjoy the ride because it's quick and painless, but at the end, it's also not one of those novels that stands out for its quirky characters or killer plot. It's just your average, fun mystery where it's quite easy to figure out who did it, and makes a good beach read.
I did think the plot was fairly interesting and I have to give credit to the author as she prevented both the plot and the characters from falling into the mundane category with her good writing skills; there were a lot of stereotypes/cliches woven around the events and it could have easily been rather banal. There were references to a cult called Santeria (both in Florida and Tennessee), voodooism, the civil rights movement, Dr. King, a famous baseball player who has hit rock bottom, the law, extra-marital affairs, hurricane Katrina, drug abuse, and to rebelliousness in the police force. All of this thrown together can be quite confusing, but somehow, the author makes it work, and I found myself enjoying the interactions between the characters rather than rolling my eyes.
Detective Billy Able, one of the main characters in this novel, is a conflicted man who is not absolutely sure he wants to stay permanently in Memphis or return to the police force. I did have to suspend a bit of skepticism as he investigated what he thought were crimes with his partner-in-crime Frankie Malone, a cop looking to be promoted to detective. More uptight than Billy, I thought she held her own against him quite well and proved that she was quite capable of investigating and being a good partner in solving crimes. Not too smart when it comes to men, but very good at her job. There was a lot of action as the two investigated, but some of it did seem a bit far fetched and contrived. Enjoyable, but contrived still the same. I did enjoy the interactions between the two of them and thought the dialogue was witty and fun.
The Gone Dead Train definitely had its good moments and I did enjoy the novel as Ms. Turner managed to keep the story interesting; the plot moved rather quickly and there were some interesting twists and turns that I rather liked. I also liked the Civil Rights take on things and wished it was more in-depth with regards to that topic as I felt it didn't go quite deep enough into things. I also felt the author didn't really wrap up the novel that well with regards to the deaths of the 'bluesmen' and the reasons why they were murdered. As far as that goes, I would like to see Able and Malone in future novels and really develop their personalities and what their capabilities as I think this series could be really fun.