A ghostly apparition haunts the California Zephyr in 1953.
Jill McLeod doesn’t believe in ghosts. But she has to admit something odd is going on when she feels a sudden chill upon entering the Silver Gorge sleeping car and sees a “luminous flicker” enter empty Roomette 4. The fact that a man recently died in that compartment makes it hard for her to concentrate on her job as a Zephyrette (Death Deals a Hand, 2016, etc.), which requires her to deal with all the problems of passengers on her Oakland-to-Chicago round trip. Several of the porters have also seen strange things that suggest that although Kevin Randall is supposed to have died of an accidental overdose of Digoxin, his spirit may lie uneasy. On her next trip, the passenger who occupies Roomette 4 complains of extreme cold and hearing two men argue nearby. Jill’s friend Grace Tidsdale, a tough, opinionated lady with experience in government service, has particular reason to be interested in Jill’s account of her experience. Another friend of Grace’s is the aunt of Margaret Vennor, who was engaged to Randall and is sure he was murdered. The three even try a séance. When that doesn’t work, they resume their hunt for earthly clues. As Jill reflects on the fateful trip, she remembers more details, including two men who seemed to have been arguing with Randall. Her reflections continue as her own hectic life goes on, complete with a sister soon to be married and a brother who drops out of college life. After losing her fiance in the Korean War, Jill is dating again, but neither she nor her boyfriend is in a hurry to marry despite pressure from their families. The skills Jill has honed as a Zephyrette translate even better to sleuthing than to domestic bliss.
Not much mystery, but a nostalgic, wonderfully detailed look at an era when trains were still a major mode of transportation and life, at least on the surface, seemed idyllic compared to today.