THE SILENCE BETWEEN BREATHS
From Murder On The Orient Express to The Girl On The Train, the railway journey has been the setting for some memorable crime novels. The latest standalone tale by Blue Murder creator Cath Staincliffe brings together seven strangers on a train and their potential killer: an Islamic extremist with a suspicious rucksack. It’s a disquieting visual reference that deftly taps into our contemporary fears of terrorism. Within a few pages, you’ll feel like a fellow passenger on this perilous 10.35am train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston. Having introduced the bomb on board, Staincliffe heightens the tension by taking us into the lives of the hapless targets, including an anxiety- -prone jobseeker, a family man at odds with multi-cultural Britain, and the cheery Asian youth in charge of trolley service.
As you might expect from a screenwriter, it’s a highly visual read that’s easy to imagine as TV disaster drama. But Staincliffe is just as skilled at constructing a novel of multiple perspectives: The Silence Between Breaths is enriched by the characters’ observations of their fellow narrators in the same carriage. Suspense is maintained during the harrowing second half, a sensitive portrayal of the aftermath of an atrocity. It’s a humane alternative to the predictably gung-ho thriller. Just don’t attempt to read it on public transport.