A long-haul potboiler from the indefatigable Baldacci (Wish You Well, 2000, etc.) introduces a hardcase reporter to America and wins him his true love.
The decision to make an overnight train trip often begins with a good idea (scenery or nostalgia, say) that doesn’t survive the rigors of the journey. Tom Langdon is an exception in that he takes Amtrak from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles out of sheer necessity: The airlines have banned him from all commercial flights for assaulting an insolent metal-detector guard. That should give you a good insight into Tom’s character right there—for the rest, all you need to know is that he’s a divorced freelance journalist who is dating a Hollywood voiceover actress. Since Tom is due to spend Christmas in LA with his girlfriend, he decides to make a virtue of necessity by writing an article about train travel in the US, so he books a private compartment on the Capitol Limited and heads for Washington’s Union Station one snowy December night. His fellow passengers are a mix of flesh: There’s Agnes Joe (a large and overbearing former trapeze artist), Father Paul Kelly (a retired priest), Julie and Steve (an engaged couple who decide to get married on the train—literally), Gordon Merryweather (a sleazo lawyer who calls himself the “king of the class-action lawsuit), and a mysterious group from Hollywood who board secretly to avoid publicity. Tom wanders about the train, innocent and relatively carefree, until he discovers that the woman at the center of the Hollywood group is the famous screenwriter Eleanor Carter—his ex-wife! Even more amazing, Eleanor’s director Max Powers finds out that Tom is a writer and convinces Eleanor to collaborate on a project with him. It looks like Tom’s career is taking off after all. But will he be able to work with Eleanor now that they’re on a purely platonic level? Probably not—but who said they had to do it that way?
Harmless, obvious, and about as full of surprises as a timetable.