Murder on a train? Yes, please! Give me some of that claustrophobic Agatha Christie whodunit vibes! MJ Cross has written five novels in the Carter Blake series under his full name Mason Cross. What she saw last night is the first under the new pseudonym and also a stand-alone novel. I’m happy to say it delivers plenty of action-packed suspense and more than one eventful train journey. But first, what’s the book about?
About the book
Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.
In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.
Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin … but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.
The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.
But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.
When Jenny Bowen decides to go old-school romantic and book a ticket on the overnight train travelling from her home in London to her dad’s in Fort William, she has no idea that the 500 mile journey will derail her life (sorry, had to!) Standing on the verge of divorcing her cheating husband and still reeling after her father’s unexpected death, all she wants is to slow down and have some time to think.
What happens during the train trip puts a series of unfortunate events into motion and it’s quite the opposite of the relaxing trip she had in mind. When she finds the body of a women she noticed the previous night, Jenny is thrown head-first into a search for the girl she believes she saw with the murdered woman. But no-one wants to believe a “hysterical”, over-stressed woman who seems to have imagined a young girl with long, brown, shiny hair and her grey rabbit. Clearly she’s just an “over-imaginative witness” who reads too many books.
Fortunately Sergeant Mike Fletcher, unlike his “lazy bastard” superior, Detective Inspector Gregory Porter, gives Jenny the benefit of the doubt and follows up the meagre leads regarding the girl’s disappearance. Together the ambitious Sergeant Fletcher and determined Jenny tries to unravel the mystery of the woman with the fake name and the missing girl.
However, their persistence makes them easy targets for the ominous man in the long, dark coat and more than once they narrowly escape his attempts to get rid of them. MJ Cross creates one terrifying and chilling character who provides most of the suspense in the novel – mainly because he seems to have the uncanny ability to find Jenny no matter where she is. That he’s a ruthless contract killer doesn’t help the situation either.
What she saw last night might start off at a steady pace, but quickly picks up at breakneck speed with plenty of action scenes. Jenny proves to be quite the female action hero, which is a welcome change from women being depicted as the helpless victim (yay for feminism!)
MJ Cross provides just the right amount of descriptive detail to give the reader a clear image of a character – e.g. the dishevelled woman on the train – “she looked harassed, swearing under her breath”. It’s not difficult to imagine his characters as they are described in detail, whether it’s their facial features or choice of clothing. The same goes for the various settings, especially at the beginning when describing the claustrophobic atmosphere on the train.
Another clever twist – whether intended or not – was having the dates of the book’s release coincide with the dates of the story itself and bringing the story into reality. However, in essence, What she saw last night is pure escapism which you’ll eagerly consume in a maximum of two sittings.
Thank you to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to join this blog tour and to Orion UK for providing me with an ARC. Follow along on the blog tour for more reviews from some excellent book bloggers.