The Insane Train

Publishers Weekly names The Insane Train as one of the six best mysteries of 2010

The New York Times declares The Insane Train a “terrific historical crime novel” and an “outstanding series, which delivers thrilling action.”


  The Insane Train


  By Dr. Sheldon Russell


  St. Martin’s Press


This second installment of Russell’s 1940s mystery series continues the adventures of yard dog Hook Runyon.  After a devastating fire at an insane asylum in California, Hook Runyon has been put in charge of security for a train that is to transport the survivors to a new destination.  Hook hires a motley crew of World War II veterans to help, but things soon go awry.

Here’s what the critics are saying about The Insane Train:

“There’s a train you want to catch in Sheldon Russell’s terrific historical crime novel, The Insane Train. . . . One-armed (and aptly named) Hook sets the rugged-but-sensitive tone of this outstanding series, which delivers thrilling action, great scenery and a full cast of complex characters searching for peace in a troubled postwar environment. Not to mention the chance to hop a ride on the Chief, the legendary diesel train whose “red and yellow war bonnet” shines in the sun as she sweeps into the station.” — The New York Times 

“In Russell’s outstanding second Hook Runyon 1940s historical, . . . Russell imbues even bit characters with personality, and presents a rough-edged view of the world that will be familiar to fans of classic hard-boiled writers such as Chandler and Hammett.” — Publishers Weekly

“The story unfolds with the stark clarity of a Clint Eastwood movie, underscored with rough, laconic humor and driven by strong characterizations and a powerful sense of time and place.  .  .  . Fresh and original, it’s easily one of the best mysteries of the year. — The Denver Post 

“Russell’s book is full of well-drawn characters, especially the homeless veterans who have returned to take up the wandering ways they’d lived during the Depression. Readers who enjoy exploring out-of-the-way corners of history will like the details about railroads and care of the mentally ill in 1940s that the author has used to help set the stage. For fans of historical mysteries.” — Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green

“Russell’s second book featuring railroad detective (yard dog) Hook Runyon is a fresh take on the classic 1940’s noir mystery with a mesmerizing plot, intriguing characters and an interesting setting. It’s another great read from this talented author.” —

“Sharply sketched characters and a vivid sense of place and time (post-WWII) highlighted the first Hook Runyon novel, TheYard Dog (2009). This one has both of those attributes and adds sad but fascinating insights into the treatment of mental patients; the sclerotic, self-important rail industry; and the lingering pain of the Great Depression. A fine crime novel made even richer with solid historical background.”   Thomas Gaughan, Booklist

“I loved it. . . .  [t]his was an engaging mystery that deals with the way the past can come back and haunt you in ways you would never be able to anticipate.” — Wordsmithonia 

“Russell does an excellent job of painting the backdrop in the 1940’s.  No cellphones there!!  His writing is superb and smooth and his character development was outstanding.  I could just envision these characters in true form.  With a unique and engaging storyline and an intriguing and stellar mystery, The Insane Train is a must read!” — Minding Spot

“This is a good mystery that provides historical information on the era and the treatment of mental patients at that time. There are some strange characters among the mental patients that provide a little humor. There’s also a romantic interest for Hook in Andrea. I look forward to the next book in this series.” — News OK 

“While The Insane Train is about transporting criminally insane patients and Hook Runyon, the hero, has only one arm, this second novel in Sheldon Russell’s intriguing series goes much further.  The Insane Train is a hard-boiled, insightful look at the post-World War II era, the treatment of war veterans and the attitude toward the mentally challenged. . . . Russell’s acute sense of the historical elevates The Insane Train. . . .  Russell excels at sharp dialogue and believable characters. . . .  The Insane Train chugs along at a brisk pace as it skillfully depicts a slice of American history. — 

“If one were to imagine Hook relating this story to his grandchildren, the manner in which it would be told matches perfectly the narrative style of The Insane Train. It’s laid back, yet edgy; cautious yet confident. . . . [I]t’s a nonstop race to the dramatic finish. . . . The Insane Train is a solidly crafted mystery that will appeal to train aficionados, history buffs, and anyone who enjoys a good story well told.” — 

“Russell manipulates this bizarre blend of characters and landscape with a subtle hand and plenty of social context, bringing his characters and their situations to life in unexpected ways, from the very likable Hook Runyon to his scrappy little dog companion to the vets who find a place with those the public shuns. Crafting an exciting tale from the remnants of war. . ., Russell offers an original series of crime novels with a protagonist as colorful as his cases.”  — 


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