Review

The Christmas Train

by David Baldacci

I
love trains. Whether it's hopping on Amtrak from New York to DC or
riding a scenic steam railway through bucolic landscape. I have
long dreamt of traveling cross-country on a train, reading through
a stack of books, meeting people in the club car, and watching the
small towns of America from behind the large windows of an
observation car. Planes imply rush, pressure, business. Trains
inspire dreaming and leisure.

An equal fascination for me is classic movies, particularly
Hitchcock, and anything laced with old-fashioned romance.

Knowing this, you will understand why I loved THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN.
Here David Baldacci, the bestselling author of ABSOLUTE POWER and
WISH YOU WELL, has written a story that takes readers on a journey
full of memorable --- and very witty --- characters, and a set of
challenges that will keep readers saying, "just one more chapter."
(For this reason, I do not recommend reading this while the holiday
cookies are in the oven, unless you are prepared to make a second
batch when the first burns.) It's a real slice of Americana with
all the holiday trimmings. Of course, the book would not be
Baldacci without a measure of suspense in there for good
measure.

Here's the plot. Tom Langdon, a world-traveled journalist, must go
from Washington to L.A. for the holidays. Due to a "falling out"
with the FAA over a "small airport security issue," he is relegated
to train travel for this trip. To make the most of it, he has
gotten a magazine assignment writing about trains and the romance
of train travel. His story will take him on both The Capitol
Limited from D.C. to Chicago and The Southwest Chief from Chicago
to L.A.

Once on board he encounters another passenger who will make this
journey into one of the heart, as well as one of the spirit. He'll
also encounter a number of people who will remind him of the true
meaning of the holiday.

Baldacci --- who I have had the pleasure to meet on more than one
occasion --- also can be wickedly funny. When he tells a story as
he does here, often you are often surprised to discover he's set up
a joke. When Tom envisions a sleeper car out of North by
Northwest
--- complete with all the luxurious trappings and, of
course, the romance of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint --- readers
are drawn into his story. Instead what does Tom find? A smalled
cramped sleeper space and cabin neighbor named Agnes Joe, who is
anything but "sensuously nubile."

The whole story slides on like that with scene after scene where
all is not what it is supposed to be, right up to the final pages.
There are enough screwball escapades to make you groan, and enough
storyline to make you say, "how nice." I dare you to not want to
cast the movie as you read!

I can picture people curling up with this one while the wrapping
and ribbons are still on the floor, and letting themselves escape
for a few hours.

If you want to give more than a book, here are some gift
suggestions to pair with this: a train, a train ticket or a Mark
Twain title (for the reason for the last suggestion, you'll have to
read for yourself!)

Reviewed by Carol Fitzgerald on January 21, 2011

The Christmas Train
by David Baldacci

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446615757
  • ISBN-13: 9780446615754