cover image The Last Train to Key West

The Last Train to Key West

Chanel Cleeton. Berkley, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-451-49088-9

Elizabeth Preston, one of three spunky heroines in Cleeton’s loosely braided historical (after When We Left Cuba), finds herself caught in a killer hurricane in the Florida Keys over Labor Day weekend in 1935, having fled New York City to avoid marrying gangster Frank Morgan and instead search for a WWI vet who wrote her a letter. Elizabeth’s train stops in Key West, where she meets the heavily pregnant Helen Berner, a waitress at Ruby’s restaurant. Married for nine years to Tom, an abusive alcoholic fisherman, Helen fantasizes about a new life. Also at Ruby’s is newlywed Mirta Perez Cordero, who is on the way to joining her husband, Anthony, at their honeymoon beach house. After Tom threatens Helen, she flees up the Keys to Islamorada, determined to protect her unborn child. Elizabeth, worried she might be tailed by one of Frank’s lackeys, allows a man she met on the train to accompany her. During a terrifying ordeal at the height of the hurricane, after Mirta discovers what business her husband is in, she is forced to confront the limits of her loyalty. The author neatly ties up the trio of plotlines, revealing the slender—and very convenient—threads connecting the women. Cleeton finds the right balance of historical detail and suspense, making this a riveting curl-up-on-the-couch affair. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (June)