‘The Express Diaries’ is the latest novel from vet writer Nick Marsh, who combines a love of treating animals with a bizarre imagination and the downright weird.
As our adventure opens in 1925, we receive brief bios of the main characters and a wraparound fiction of this being based on certain diaries and newspaper cuttings and contemporaneous accounts told in the first person by different narrators, though we get to hear each voice and form our own opinion
Our main diarist is the redoubtable Betty Sutherland, middle-aged and respectable. She has the hint of the disreputable and proves stoic in the face of disaster.
Her brother, Neville Goodenough (who apparently isn’t, according to the men he commanded), has his own kind of stoicism. Still mourning the loss of his wife, he nevertheless takes up the charge
Companion to Betty and swept along by her is Grace Murphy and niece Violet, wife and assistant to an absent magician. They are guided by Betty’s friend, Professor Alphonse Moretti, on this continent busting adventure.
On the trail of a mysterious statue, enforced companions ride the Orient Express. Each part must be collected and destroyed when assembled but dark forces are ranged against them, not least the Brothers of the Skin and what initially seems like a glorious jamboree and jolly jaunt rapidly descends into blood-soaked chaos. All good fun then.
From the opera house of Milan, the underworkings of Istanbul, via gravesides, museums, deceptions and deaths, it’s all here to get your heart racing. It is unlikely anyone will survive this trip. The travel insurance should have been taken up on booking.
‘The Express Diaries’ is riot of a ride and early on, before reading the appendix to the book, thought it has the elements of a role playing game. It does because that was its first incarnation and the book has been written to pull this together which it does, giving a quaintly old-fashioned feel to it like the old style computer games.
You may find the plot extremely silly or you may just sit back and enjoy the journey. You are unlikely to want to travel on the Orient Express anytime soon.
(pub: Innsmouth House Press. 304 page paperback. Price: £29.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-3-06320-618-3)
check out website: www.innsmouthhouse.com