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by Dianne Day

Bantam, 1999
ISBN: 0553580558

Reviewed by Jennifer Ashley

DEATH TRAIN TO BOSTON begins with the point of view of Michael Archer, Fremont Jones's side-kick, lover, and partner. Michael awakens lying beside a railroad track and a wrecked train. His memory pieces together what happened: He and Fremont had been traveling from San Francisco to Boston, when in the middle of the Wasatch in Utah, the train had exploded. As he recovers, Michael realizes that Fremont is not among the survivors, nor is she among the dead.

Fremont Jones wakes up far away, in a small cabin in a Mormon household. The patriarch Melancthon Pratt, relates that he found her in the wreckage and brought her here to be tended by his five wives. Fremont, with two broken legs, can do little but lie there and recover her health and her memory.

Meanwhile, Michael frantically searches for Fremont. He deduces how the explosions had occurred, then recruits Meiling Li, their Chinese friend now at Stanford, to help him search.

Fremont, recovering, has time to study the diverse characters of Pratt's five wives, from the work-weary oldest wife to the youngest wife, a fifteen-year-old girl. Pratt tells her he plans to make her his sixth wife, because he claims his other five wives are barren. Fremont desperately wants to escape, but her convalescence is long. While she lies helpless, she puts her brain to the task of discovering who had blown up the train and why.

This book is an interesting character study and even a good thriller, but there isn't much of a mystery. The solution isn't as satisfying as the rest of the book, and almost seems an afterthought. I've observed this in the rest of the series: The stories and characters are vivid and entertaining, but the mystery itself is not very compelling.

I'm also not certain I like what the author has done with the character of Meiling Li (I won't give it away), but I did like seeing things from Michael's point of view. He is a complex man and Fremont does not appreciate him as much as she should, in my opinion!

But the heart of the book--Michael's hunting for Fremont, the characters in the Mormon family and of those in other settlements in the Wasatch--all make for an excellent read. So far, I find this the best and most powerful book of the series.

(Edcom: reviews of other books in this series are available in the morgue.)

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