The best mysteries set on ships and trains

Carmen Radtke Author Of The Case of the Missing Bride: An Alyssa Chalmers mystery
By Carmen Radtke

Who am I?

After years dedicated to the hard facts of a newspaper reporter’s life, including a sting covering the police beat, Carmen Radtke has changed her focus to fiction. She’s been fascinated by both history and mystery as long as she can remember and stays dedicated to the truth behind the lie, and the joys of in-depth research. As a repeated emigrant, she is enthralled by voyages into the unknown and the courage (or madness) that takes.


I wrote...

The Case of the Missing Bride: An Alyssa Chalmers mystery

By Carmen Radtke,

Book cover of The Case of the Missing Bride: An Alyssa Chalmers mystery

What is my book about?

The Case of the Missing Bride was inspired by an ill-fated voyage I stumbled upon during unrelated research. In 1862, reformers arranged for a group of impoverished young women in recession-stricken Australia to set sail for the newly formed province of British Columbia. They were supposed to marry prospectors but never arrived. Their undiscovered fate kept me awake at night, until I came up with an explanation that seemed plausible to me. The result was the first Alyssa Chalmers mystery, which became a Malice Domestic finalist and was nominated for a CWA Historical Dagger. I have no way of knowing if my idea is correct. What I do know is that these courageous young women deserve to be remembered.

The books I picked & why

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Murphy's Law: A Molly Murphy Mystery

By Rhys Bowen,

Book cover of Murphy's Law: A Molly Murphy Mystery

Why this book?

I fell in love with this series and its intrepid heroine Molly Murphy on page one. A young, penniless woman who has to rely on her own wits to make her way to America at the end of the 19th century, and a sea voyage that ends well enough until she becomes a murder suspect as soon as she arrives in Ellis Island - this impeccably researched historical mystery has all the ingredients I could want. It’s a satisfying mystery and a scathing social commentary, the tone of voice is clever and funny, and I didn’t just want to follow Molly on every step of her journey, I wanted to be her. 


Set Sail for Murder

By Carolyn Hart,

Book cover of Set Sail for Murder

Why this book?

Carolyn Hart is one of those cozy mystery writers who effortlessly reel me into their world. Set Sail for Murder satisfies my longing for travel with its itinerary and the lush vivid descriptions, as well as having an enjoyable mystery at its core. As a former journalist, I’m also a sucker for retired reporters turned sleuth. I read this first on a train, and it made the hours fly by. As soothing as the sound of waves gently lapping a boat. 


The Golden Rendezvous

By Alistair MacLean,

Book cover of The Golden Rendezvous

Why this book?

Fast-paced, exciting, with enough twists to keep me reading without a single break – this is one of my all-time favourites by prolific author Alistair MacLean. I found myself chuckling and, in the next instant, holding my breath as the First Officer has to outwit terrorists who have taken over the tramp carrier cum cruise ship “Campari.” But what I enjoy most is the mix of humour and lightheartedness that balance the high octane thrills which are grounded in meticulous research.


Murder on the Orient Express

By Agatha Christie,

Book cover of Murder on the Orient Express

Why this book?

When a cunning criminal who escaped justice is found murdered on board the snow-stricken Orient Express, private detective Hercule Poirot has nothing but his little grey cells to fall back on to solve the crime. I tried but couldn’t bring myself to leave this masterpiece by the Queen of Crime off my list. I don’t know what enthralls me most – the vivid description of the train journey with its exotic settings, the deft characterisations, or the oh so clever mystery with its surprising, yet convincing solution. Agatha Christie is famous for constantly challenging and changing the conventions of the mystery genre. Murder on the Orient Express is no exception, but it also shows Poirot’s heart to an extent rarely seen in the famous detective. Of all the excellent train mysteries, this is the one I re-read.


The Edge

By Dick Francis,

Book cover of The Edge

Why this book?

I tend to distrust frenetic hype around authors, only to be proven wrong again and again. The Edge was the first Dick Francis thriller I was given, and it won me over completely. Part of its charm is the setting – I’d love to take a train journey across Canada! But adding Shakespeare, theater, and horses to the mystery about a blackmailer on board a luxury train won me over completely. Like all the great books of the crime genre, The Edge can be just read for the sheer excitement, but it can also be enjoyed for the underlying themes and complexity. I for one was only too glad to come along for the ride.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in maritime, private investigators, and Irish Americans?

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