cover image The Insane Train: A Hook Runyon Mystery

The Insane Train: A Hook Runyon Mystery

Sheldon Russell, Minotaur, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-56671-5

In Russell's outstanding second Hook Runyon 1940s historical (after 2009's The Yard Dog), Hook's boss at the Santa Fe Railroad gives the railroad security agent (or "yard dog") a herculean assignment. Hook must insure the safe transport of the survivors of a horrific fire at the Baldwin Insane Asylum in Barstow, Calif., that claimed dozens of lives to a facility in Oklahoma. This group includes dangerous inmates who'd been housed in the asylum's security ward, one of whom may have started the fatal conflagration. Hook recruits four down-on-their-luck ex-army men, reduced to living under a train bridge, to help him, but their assistance may not be enough when a killer strikes en route. Russell imbues even bit characters with personality, and presents a rough-edged view of the world that will be familiar to fans of classic hard-boiled writers such as Chandler and Hammett. (Nov.)