Monday, March 16, 2020

Death on the Nefertem Express, by Brian Trent

★★★☆☆ Mixed

(SF Mystery) Someone sabotaged a tourist train on planet Nefertem. It had to be one of the passengers, but can anyone solve the mystery before sunrise kills all the passengers—in just half an hour. (7,641 words; Time: 25m)

Recommended By: πŸ‘STomaino+1 (Q&A)

"Death on the Nefertem Express," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 03-04|20, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2020.145 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Obviously this is a sort of homage to “Murder on the Orient Express,” by Agatha Christie. We have an unlikely investigator—a bone fide space pirate—and a real mystery: how could the engine and the backup for the train both disappear?

Like in the Christie story, there’s a cast of mysterious characters, and the train is stalled in the cold middle of nowhere. But other than that, there’s not a lot of similarity. Here, it’s the whole complement of passengers and crew who’re slated to die—not one bad man who gets murdered by all the rest of the passengers working together.

Given the situation, there’s plenty of thrills and excitement, especially as the blue star gets closer and close to rising.

I especially liked the gamer dude, who was playing an augmented-reality game that involved kicking otters.

Con: I simply couldn’t believe that anyone would listen to Jolene, much less follow her orders. She had no real or earned authority. And the solution to the mystery wasn’t anything that anyone could have guessed before the murderer herself revealed it. (A bit like Christie that way.)

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. Something very SFnal occurred when I started this story: I was suddenly reading a copy of Astounding from the 1940s. And as you note, the solution is a complete cheat of the reader. I really didn't see the point of this.