THE TRAIN RIDER
Author: Tony Cavanaugh
Hachette Australia RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Mind-games between a psychopath and a burned out former homicide investigator abound in Tony Cavanaugh’s chilling novel, The Train Rider. As a crime thriller, this is one of the more hard-edged variety, with violent, sickening crime making for a disturbing read.
Catching killers was Darien Richard’s job. As Victoria’s top homicide investigator, he spent years investigating crimes of passion, anger and revenge, but there were some cases and perpetrators that pushed him beyond his limits. Like The Train Rider, a monster of a man who took girls, raped them, gave them back, but then progressed to murder. Now retired and trying to free his mind of nightmares, Darien is shocked to hear that The Train Rider is back in action, and he’s followed Darien to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The message conveyed to Darien is clear – whatever happens to these girls is on Darien’s head (and The Train Rider is more than happy to give details); it’s a game, and Darien is an unwilling player. Darien knows he has to stop The Train Rider, but doing so means a girl will die.
That’s a pretty sanitised version of what happens in The Train Rider. While much of the story is told from Darien’s point of view, readers also get glimpses into The Train Rider’s mind, as well as some of the victims. These glimpses are enough to push the chill factor way up – I found the detail unnerving and confronting at times. Reading about how girls are being raped is never easy, nor is momentarily being inside a monster’s mind.
Darien is a complex protagonist – he’s no angel, himself, and when he feels he needs to, he takes the law into his own hands. After years in the force, he likes to do things his way, and this is highlighted by his dismissal of the Commissioner when the case heats up. He has his own demons to confront, leading to plenty of character conflict; a reconciliation with a past love is put on hold so Darien can sort himself out, but the ending leaves readers wondering whether Darien will ever be able to stop chasing the bad guys and fighting his demons. He’s a complex character and well portrayed.
As a thriller, this is a cracking read, but as writer Graeme Blundell said, Cavanaugh’s thrillers are not for the faint-hearted. This puts me in a quandary, because I certainly didn’t enjoy the more disturbing aspects of the book (I must be faint-hearted!), but I found the writing tight and the characterisation well drawn. I’d definitely recommend Cavanaugh’s books for those who like their thrillers edgy, but for me, I am going to have to be in a strong frame of mind so I don’t dwell on the scenarios too much!
Available from good bookstores and Hachette Australia. My copy was courtesy of Hachette Australia.
Bookish treat: I wanted to nibble my fingernails while reading this, but opted for some healthy nuts and dried fruit to ward off the negativity!