Top 20 Reading Lists

George Orwell

Collectible Cormac McCarthy

Forget about Harry’s Hogwarts Express. Forget about those Railway Children, the Boxcar Children and Thomas the Tank Engine. Forget about The Little Engine That Could and The Polar Express too. The best books about trains are ones involving dirty deeds done dirty cheap. For more than a century, mystery writers have been drawn to trains, railways and stations because they are wonderful places to set a crime - hordes of strangers, multiple destinations, people fleeing from the past or looking for a fresh start. You may never make eye contact with a fellow train passenger again after reading some of these thrillers.

Top 10 Train Thrillers

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

1. Strangers on a Train
Patricia Highsmith

A gripping psychological thriller from 1950 that proves you can meet dangerous people on trains.

The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White

2. The Wheel Spins
Ethel Lina White

Another thriller (1936) about meeting a stranger on a train - Hitchcock turned it into The Lady Vanishes.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

3. Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie

First published in 1933, Hercule Poirot has a mystery to solve after Mr. Ratchett is stabbed 12 times.

Stamboul Train by Graham Greene

4. Stamboul Train
Graham Greene

Published a year before Murder on the Orient Express, this is a thriller set on the Orient Express.
The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin

5. The Necropolis Railway
Andrew Martin

Published in 2002, a British murder mystery set in the golden age of steam.

The Edge by Dick Francis

6. The Edge
Dick Francis

A classic thriller where the Jockey Club’s Tor Kelsey takes a transcontinental train journey across Canada.
La Béte Humaine by Émile Zola

7. La Béte Humaine
Émile Zola

Published in 1890, this thriller is set on the railway between Paris and Le Havre

4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie

8. 4.50 From Paddington
Agatha Christie

Elspeth McGillicuddy sees a woman strangled in a passing train and Miss Marple investigates.

Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

9. Mr. Norris Changes Trains
Christopher Isherwood

A 1935 novel set in pre-War Europe with a chance meeting on a train. Also read Goodbye to Berlin.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey

10. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
John Godey

A New York subway train is hijacked in this thriller from 1973 that became a move a year later.

And Five Recommended Non-Fiction Books About Trains

The 8.55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames

The 8.55 to Baghdad

Andrew Eames

A train journey from London to Baghdad just before the Iraq War in Agatha Christie’s footsteps.
Stranger on a Train by Jenny Diski

Stranger on a Train

Jenny Diski

Diski travels around the US by train but this book is really about the author’s fragile mental state.

The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux

The Old Patagonian Express

Paul Theroux

Theroux heads south from the US into Central America to Patagonia describing sights and people.

The Story of London's Underground by John R. Day

The Story of London's Underground
John R. Day

First published by London Transport in the 1960s. Tells of smoke-filled tunnels to the modern day Tube.
The Big Red Train Ride by Eric Newby

The Big Red Train Ride

Eric Newby

The Trans-Siberian Railway covers seven time zones and 5,900 miles. Newby made the trip in 1977.

Five Railway Books That Caught Our Eye

Take a trip to the AbeBooks Rare Book Room