MAXWELL'S TRAIN by Christopher Hyde


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Terrorists vs. assorted good-guys on a Washington-to-N.Y. Amtrak train--in a routine, overblown, hard-working thriller that's a slight improvement over Hyde's dreadful previous efforts (The Icarus Seal, The Tenth Crusade). After a long buildup, a team of super-terrorists from abroad--including Libyans, Italian Red Brigaders, and Baader-Meinhof survivor Annalise Shenker (""a face like an avenging angel, a body made for Calvin Kleins"")--hijacks the N.Y.-bound Night Owl train. Why all that terror-talent for an Amtrak train? Because, along with the usual 500 passengers, this train has both a Federal Reserve bank car (containing $35 million) and a sleeper-ful of top diplomats. Unbeknownst to the terrorists, however, among the passengers there are more than a few courageous types--including a bitter Vietnam vet (a double amputee), a couple of feisty oldsters, and ex-drug-runner Harry Maxwell, who's aboard (with three cronies) because he and his gang intended, via an elaborate plan, to steal that $35 million from the bank-car. So, as the terrorists re-route the train to Canada, killing a few diplomats along the way, there'll be a series of skirmishes between the hijackers and the hostages: the terrorists threaten to spread anthrax plague if their escape is impeded; the hostage-heroes, joined by a couple of super-lawmen, assemble an arsenal to fight back, grabbing a terrorist-prisoner and trying to figure out which passenger is a secret terrorist-ally. And eventually there's a fire, a tunnel-crisis, and a cinema-minded finale--with the train poised above a gorge, a chase on 3-wheeled ATV's (all-terrain vehicles), plus Maxwell's last-minute ploy to foil the terrorists and get away with the $35 million. Too many characters, too little characterization, a profusion of corpses and corny/stiff dialogue--but serviceable, by-the-numbers entertainment in the Avalanche Express tradition.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1985
Publisher: Villard/Random House