THE MYSTERY TRAIN DISAPPEARS by Kyotaro Nishimura

THE MYSTERY TRAIN DISAPPEARS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This 1982 novel, the first of Nishimura's several train mysteries to be translated into English, is a gripping, streamlined procedural. Japanese National Railways (JNR) periodically runs popular days-long excursions to unannounced destinations. When a ""mystery train"" out of Tokyo disappears between two stations with 400 passengers, JNR officials are baffled even after they get a clarifying ransom demand for one billion yen (two and a half million yen per passenger--a nice touch, since it equals JNR's annual government subsidy per employee). How did the kidnappers make a twelve-car train vanish? Where can they be holding all those passengers without attracting notice? How do they expect to pick up the 130-pound ransom and escape from the police who are sure to be called in? JNR's Hiroshi Kataro and his police colleagues Honda and Totsugawa do some clever detective work--figuring out where the train has gone, how the kidnappers got the ransom money off a sealed train, where the passengers are being kept, who the perpetrators are, and why they're holding onto three hostages after giving up the other 397. But each time they seem to be closing in on the criminals, they come up short--until the final, understated surprise. Nishimura's (or his translator's) flat, unemphatic prose is short on atmosphere and character--don't look here for a portrait of modern Japan. But the sharply etched battle of wits between the police and the crooks will remind many readers of the best of Ed McBain and Hillary Waugh.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1990
Publisher: Dembner--dist. by Norton