cover image Dread Journey

Dread Journey

Dorothy B. Hughes. Penzler, $25.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-613161-46-3

Cornell Woolrich meets Agatha Christie in this taut, grim reissue in the American Mystery Classics series, first published in 1945. The passengers on a claustrophobic train trip from Los Angeles to New York City are first viewed from the perspective of railroad porter James Cobbett, who briefly describes the principals before they come onstage. They include Viv Spender, a filthy rich movie mogul (“The Zeus of America’s greatest industry!”); his secretary, Mike Dana; a honeymooning couple, the Crandalls; famous film star Kitten Agnew; and Gratia Shawn, a would-be Hollywood actress. Hughes (1904–1993) movingly evokes the quiet desperation of the characters, whose backstories she gradually reveals. In particular, Kitten fears that Viv is preparing to replace her as the lead in a film version of Mann’s The Magic Mountain, and she suspects that he poisoned his wife. Deferring the identity of the inevitable murder victim heightens the suspense. Sarah Weinman (The Real Lolita) provides an insightful introduction. Fans of gritty crime fiction will be gratified. [em](Dec.) [/em]