Review: The Train Rider by Tony Cavanaugh

Title: The Train Rider {Darien Richards Crime Files #3}

Author: Tony Cavanaugh

Published: Hachette Australia February 2014

Status: Read from February 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

In preparation for the release of The Train Rider, I finally had the excuse I needed to read Promise and Dead Girl Sing. I devoured both crime thrillers in a single day and eagerly began the third installment from Tony Cavanaugh featuring ex homicide detective Darian Richards.

Darian Richards was once Melbourne’s top homicide cop but he walked away at the pinnacle of his career, retiring to the Queensland coast. It wasn’t the bullet to the head that broke him, but his inability to capture the man dubbed The Train Rider.

The first eight cases attributed the monster involved teenage girls abducted just after alighting a train, found days, sometimes weeks, later wandering the streets, dressed in the tattered clothes of the victim before them. They had been raped and tortured, but they were alive. But the ninth victim was never found, neither was the tenth, or the eleventh, or the twelfth…

In Promise and Dead Girl Sing, Darian reluctantly chose to come out of retirement, on his own terms, in order to stop a serial killer and a human trafficker respectively. In The Train Rider, young girls begin disappearing from the rail system. Richard’s nemesis is in town and he wants to resume the cat and mouse game the pair began in Melbourne.

Darian is a paragon of machismo – brave, strong, smart and desirable with just enough pathos to invoke admiring, rather than pitying, sympathy. He is the man you would want on the case if your daughter went missing, cruising around town in his bright red 1964 Studebaker Champion Coupe with his rare Beretta 92 tucked into his belt, ably assisted by computer genius Isosceles. I probably shouldn’t find him as appealing as I do, as in essence he is a vigilante, and yet I couldn’t help but like him.

Cavanaugh presents a cynical view of policing where ego and politics makes a mockery of service. Corruption is rife, misogyny is rampant and law and justice rarely coincide. I know I should condemn Darian’s penchant for operating well outside the law but frankly, sometimes the end justifies the means.

This series is characterised by chilling villains who prey on teenage girls. As a mother of two beautiful daughters I sometimes found it difficult to read the explicit torture visited on the victims. The ease with which the Train Rider is able to operate and elude police is terrifying and his end game is horrifying. I desperately wanted him, and those that enabled him, erased.

One flaw with the series is the depiction of the female characters, uniformly beautiful, bright and sensual. Rose, Darian’s regular ‘escort’ turned girlfriend, is at least a decade younger than him, and looks even younger, ‘Glamourcop’ Maria uses her cleavage to dazzle Isosceles and the victims are all lithe and lissom young girls. In The Train Rider even the aged wife/lover/partner complicit in the killer’s crimes is named Eve and insists she was once ‘hot’.

By The Train Rider I was finding Maria a somewhat irritating character. Not only because of the repeated references to her looks but also because of her self righteousness. I do understand her moral and ethical struggle between Richard’s particular brand of justice and her policing ideals, I just found I didn’t much care after a while. The potential is there though to develop Maria into a strong and interesting character and I hope the author does.

The Train Rider is a gritty, dark and engrossing thriller. I had thought perhaps that this may have been the conclusion to Cavanaugh’s series but it seems likely, given the ending, that we can expect more from books featuring Darian Richards. I hope so.

Available to Purchase From

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10 thoughts on “Review: The Train Rider by Tony Cavanaugh

  1. yay! So glad you like this series too!

    When I first read ‘Promise’, I wasn’t sure about Darian as a leading-man. He had very few redeeming qualities, and I wasn’t sure he could carry an entire series …. but, by God, I can’t help liking the guy either. I don’t always know why, but I do.

    I also really like Maria but, yes, portrayal of women is an issue in the series (again, doesn’t stop me from liking the books but I do raise my eyebrow and grumble a bit here and there). I find Rose to be really, really dull (mostly because she reads like a male fantasy come to life – complete with ‘Pretty Woman’ escort-with-a-heart-of-gold romantic inclinations) but I like Maria. I think Darian and Isosceles comment a lot about her looks, but when we’re seeing things from her perspective she doesn’t really give a damn – it’s all about the case for her. But you’re right, she needs more fleshing out.

    Great review!


    1. Must be the social conditioning Danielle, a damaged, alpha guy is just irresistible! I want to like Maria more, I just don’t think there is enough of her to like just yet, I agree with you about Rose though, she is ‘the arm candy’ and not much more.


  2. I like him far more than I should too – and I find myself kind of appreciating his viewpoint about a lot of things too. Unlike Danielle though, I actually don’t really like Maria much, especially in the second book.

    Paragon of machismo – great way to describe him!


  3. I was distracted by the Author’s lack of knowledge of Melbourne’s train system. He refers to ‘the Dandenongs’ as being heavily populated with most people commuting to the City by train and then points out that the Dandenong Railway Station is a major hub. The latter may be true but the people of the hills don’t cross the Silvan valley to use it, they live on a completely different train line, either the Belgrave line or the Lilydale line (depending upon which side of the mountains they are on)and both converge at Ringwood. He then implies that the killer’s house at Eltham is in the Dandenongs. For one, Melbourne people don’t refer to Eltham as the Dandenongs, and two, it’s on yet another train line (the Hurstbridge line) and you wouldn’t go anywhere near Dandenong or the Dandenongs to get to it.

    I also found some of the characters somewhat unbelievable, particularly the central character, a stereotypical jaded ex-cop who is not a team player despite being a former head of homicide no less, and has a stunning girlfriend over a decade younger than himself. And of course drives a classic car. Other characters I struggled with were the Priest and the female Police Officer (living with a criminal).

    Not a bad yarn and set around my favourite part of the Sunny Coast but spoilt by too many fanciful sterotypes.


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