M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman are back! The train enthusiasts, friends and all-round brilliant humans have whipped up another extremely clever mystery that will keep readers of all ages hooked. It is full steam ahead in the series that keeps on giving.
Hal is thrilled when Uncle Nat appears at the start of the Easter holidays. Having received a letter from an old friend asking for help, the duo head off to the Harz mountains in Germany to investigate a family curse and the inexplicable events surrounding the death of Alexander Kratzenstein. Is Alexander another victim of the curse or is something more sinister going on?
With Uncle Nat acting suspiciously and a family shrouded in mystery, Hal needs to uncover the secret of Dead Man’s Pass and the family curse before another disaster strikes…
Danger At Dead Man’s Pass, the fourth book in the ‘Adventures on Trains’ series, is a thrilling read that lands Hal and Uncle Nat with their most complicated mystery yet. This title is darker and more sinister than its predecessors with curses, family feuds, undercover detectives, secret spies, a missing will, codes that need to be cracked and a cold and calculating villain.
Unlike the previous three books where Hal and Uncle Nat find themselves trying to solve a mystery that occurs whilst they are on board a train, this time they board a train knowing that a mystery awaits them. And because of their fame for solving mysteries on trains - newspapers have named Hal ‘the Drawing Detective’ - they are having to disguise themselves and keep up their cover whilst investigating.
As a result, there is plenty of suspense and intrigue before the duo have even arrived at Schloss Kratzenstein, a castle located at the foot of the Harz mountains. A creepy and atmospheric setting, a remote castle, mist, snow and the worryingly named Dead Man’s Pass with an unwelcoming skull face within the rocks are enough to send shivers racing down the spine. If trying to solve the mystery and deal with the sinister surroundings wasn’t enough, Hal and Uncle Nat are not as connected as they usually are. Their relationship is strained; having to keep up a facade is not easy and Uncle Nat is acting suspiciously, could he be hiding secrets from Hal? All will be revealed.
The fast and pacy plot delivered in short and punchy chapters keeps the action, truths, lies and red herrings coming thick and fast. Adding another dimension and further depth to what is already a cracking plot are the brilliant historical and geographical links that Uncle Nat shares as he remarks on the languages and cultures of France and Germany, different trains and track gauges, the Cold War and the novel Faust.
Having heaped praise on Leonard and Sedgman, I now want to change the track points and head in the direction of the series’ fantastic illustrator, Elisa Paganelli. She is one of the best illustrators around and her artwork perfectly captures the mood, characters and setting of this mystery. The sketch of the family around the table where the characters are named and the floor plan of the family home are two of my personal favourites. Stunning, awesome, fabulous - I run out of superlatives to describe her work.
Cork hat, sun screen and Vegemite are all packed ready for the fifth adventure which takes place in the ‘Land Down Under’ and will be trundling into our lives in February 2022.
With huge thanks to Pan Macmillan for this brilliant read.
Recommended for 9+.