The best mysteries on (and off) the tracks

Why am I passionate about this?

As soon as I found out about Zephyrettes, I knew I had to write about these real-life train hostesses who rode the rails on the old California Zephyr, which existed from 1949 to 1970. The only woman on a train crew, someone who keeps an eye on passengers and situations, anticipating and solving problems—who would be better placed to solve a mystery on a train? Jill is my traveling Miss Marple. I’m a former newspaper reporter, Navy journalist, and have been writing for decades, first the Jeri Howard series, then the Jill McLeod series, and lately a book featuring geriatric care manager Kay Dexter, The Sacrificial Daughter.


I wrote...

Death Rides the Zephyr

By Janet Dawson,

Book cover of Death Rides the Zephyr

What is my book about?

Jill McLeod rides the rails. She’s a Zephyrette, a train hostess, the sole female crew member on the sleek silver streamliner called the California Zephyr. It’s December 1952, an eastbound run from California to Chicago. The train is full of passengers from all walks of life—including a killer. 

Jill is the passengers’ primary point of contact, armed with a first-aid kit, her knowledge of human nature, and her powers of observation. The resourceful Zephyrette handles everything from injured passengers, accusations of theft, to a Christmas party for kids aboard the train. Then someone goes missing—and Jill finds a body. When an avalanche stops the train cold in a remote canyon, Jill must use her skills to solve the crime and identify the killer.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Murder on the Orient Express

Janet Dawson Why did I love this book?

The classic, the best. Nobody does it better than Dame Agatha, who wrote in her autobiography, “To travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers - in fact, to see life.” Hercule Poirot travels on the Orient Express from Istanbul. One of the passengers, an unpleasant American tycoon, tries to hire Poirot as his bodyguard. But Poirot refuses. Then an avalanche traps the train and the passenger is discovered dead, stabbed multiple times in his compartment, which is locked from the inside. Murder most foul. The Belgian detective must interview over a dozen suspects, using all his little grey cells to discover how, who, and why.

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Murder on the Orient Express as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE MOST WIDELY READ MYSTERY OF ALL TIME—NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY KENNETH BRANAGH AND PRODUCED BY RIDLEY SCOTT!

“The murderer is with us—on the train now . . .”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s…


Book cover of 4.50 from Paddington

Janet Dawson Why did I love this book?

Another Christie, out of a handful of books Dame Agatha wrote set on trains. Much as I like Poirot, I love Jane Marple, the quiet spinster from St. Mary Mead who knits, knows everyone, and is well-schooled in human nature and foibles. Talk about powers of observation. In this classic, Miss Marple’s friend Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy is traveling by train. At a moment when two trains are traveling side by side on different tracks, she looks out the window of her compartment and sees a man strangling a woman. The railway authorities don’t believe her—quelle surprise! With no other witnesses, no suspects, and no corpse, who will believe her? Jane Marple, of course, who has a plan to out the killer.

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 4.50 from Paddington as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Agatha Christie's classic Miss Marple railway mystery, reissued in a beautiful new classic hardcover edition designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

'Oh, Jane! I've just seen a murder!'

For an instant the two trains ran together, side by side. In that frozen moment, Elspeth witnessed a murder. Helplessly, she stared out of her carriage window as a man remorselessly tightened his grip around a woman's throat. The body crumpled. Then the other train drew away.

But who, apart from Miss Marple, would take her story seriously? After all, there were no suspects,…


Book cover of Murder on the Flying Scotsman

Janet Dawson Why did I love this book?

Another British mystery by a British author, this one with Carola Dunn’s resourceful and determined sleuth, the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple, who sleuths in the 1920s, when England is just recovering from the Great War. Daisy makes a living writing magazine articles but she keeps stumbling over dead bodies, much to the chagrin of Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher. In this book, early in the series, Daisy boards the Flying Scotsman, heading from London to Edinburgh. Then Belinda Fletcher shows up. The detective’s daughter is on the lam from her difficult grandmother. Then someone gets murdered on the train and Daisy once again finds herself a suspect and reluctant sleuth.

By Carola Dunn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Murder on the Flying Scotsman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Daisy's in danger of heading off the rails!

Daisy's embarking on a journey to Edinburgh and her biggest worry is that she has forgotten her book, so how will she pass the time? Her concern proves to be pointless, however, as once the journey begins Daisy finds a pint-sized stowaway on board - Belinda, the daughter of dreamy Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher, Daisy's beau.

No sooner has this problem revealed itself than Daisy and Belinda run into a bickering Scottish clan en route to the deathbed of the head of the family. But before the express reaches its first…


Book cover of Breakheart Pass

Janet Dawson Why did I love this book?

A crowded troop train is heading across a desolate stretch of tracks through the Rocky Mountains. It’s the dead of winter 1873 and you can almost feel the chill seeping into the railcars. The troops are headed to Fort Humboldt to relieve the cholera-stricken garrison. In addition to the troops, the train’s passengers include a powerful governor, the daughter of the fort’s commander, and a US marshal escorting an outlaw prisoner. But people and their stories aren’t what they seem. A passenger is murdered. Time is running out and a lot of people are going to wind up dead before the end of the story. A masterful thriller by MacLean.

Book cover of Blood on the Tracks

Janet Dawson Why did I love this book?

Something different here, a contemporary mystery set in Denver, Colorado, featuring Sydney Rose Parnell and her K9 partner Clyde. Both are Iraqi War vets and now they work for the railroad. Sydney is a railroad police special agent and she’s brought into a murder case by the Denver police. She finds herself sleuthing amid the community of homeless rail riders. A gripping thriller that’s the first in a series.

By Barbara Nickless,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Blood on the Tracks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Amazon Charts bestseller.

A young woman is found brutally murdered, and the main suspect is the victim's fiance, a hideously scarred Iraq War vet known as the Burned Man. But railroad police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, brought in by the Denver Major Crimes unit to help investigate, can't shake the feeling that larger forces are behind this apparent crime of passion.

In the depths of an icy winter, Parnell and her K9 partner, Clyde-both haunted by their time in Iraq-descend into the underground world of a savage gang of rail riders. There, they uncover a wide-reaching conspiracy and…


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Legacy of the Witch

By Kirsten Weiss,

Book cover of Legacy of the Witch

Kirsten Weiss Author Of The Mysteries of Tarot: A Work of the Imagination

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

When I joined the Peace Corps in the early nineties, I wasn’t allowed to take much luggage. I decided to bring a Tarot deck, figuring I’d finally have time to learn it while parked in an Estonian forest. That Tarot deck opened up a world of Renaissance mysticism and magic, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Tarot cards and readings feature prominently in many of my cozy mystery novels, not the least of which are the Tea and Tarot mysteries. Now my imaginary Tarot reader from that series, Hyperion Night, has recently written his own Tarot guidebook, The Mysteries of Tarot.

Kirsten's book list on how to read Tarot

What is my book about?

Seeker: As societies grow increasingly fragmented, hopelessness, nihilism, division, and despair are on the rise. But there is another way—a way of mystery and magic, of wholeness and transformation. Do you dare take the first step? Our path is not for the faint-hearted, but for seekers of ancient truths...

Legacy of the Witch is a spellbinding, interactive tale of a woman’s midlife quest to understand the complexities of her own heart. A paranormal women’s fiction murder mystery for anyone who’s wondered if there might be more to their own life than meets the eye…

Legacy of the Witch

By Kirsten Weiss,

What is this book about?

Seeker: As societies grow increasingly fragmented, hopelessness, nihilism, division and despair are on the rise. But there is another way—a way of mystery and magic, of wholeness and transformation. Do you dare take the first step? Our path is not for the faint-hearted, but for seekers of ancient truths.

All April wants is to start over after her husband’s sudden death. She’s conjuring a new path—finally getting her degree and planning her new business in bucolic Pennsylvania Dutch country. Joining an online mystery school seems like harmless fun.

But when a murdered man leaves her a cryptic message, she catches…


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