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.

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