Trans-Mongolian Express

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Pub Date 17 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 10 Jan 2024

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In the harrowing aftermath of Chernobyl's meltdown in 1986, the fate of Eastern Europe hangs by a thread.

From Beijing, American radiation scientist Lara, once a thorn in the Russian mob's side, is drawn back into the shadows of the Soviet Union on the Trans-Mongolian Express. She isn't alone. Anton, a Soviet scientist exiled for predicting Chernobyl's catastrophe, is on a quest to expose the truth. Amidst them, Timur, a Chechen giant fueled by vengeance, plots to destroy the already crumbling Soviet Union.

Suddenly, a murder on the remote tracks of the Gobi thrusts them into a deadly game of cat and mouse. As Chief Sheriff Bat races to solve the murder, their lives are thrown into jeopardy. Lara finds an unexpected ally in Gang, a reluctant assassin sent to end her life, and an illicit romance blooms amidst the chaos. But Gang isn't the only killer onboard. A hidden menace lurks, threatening to unravel all their plans.

In this electrifying ride across a historical backdrop, suspense and passion collide in an unyielding dance of survival and redemption. Who will survive the Trans-Mongolian Express?

In the harrowing aftermath of Chernobyl's meltdown in 1986, the fate of Eastern Europe hangs by a thread.

From Beijing, American radiation scientist Lara, once a thorn in the Russian mob's side, is...

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ISBN 9781953959157
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Average rating from 51 members

Featured Reviews

Who would have thought a train ride could have so much drama! Never a dull moment of intense happening. Dr Lara, Anton, Timur, Bjorn, Gang and Bat, among other characters, board that Trans-Monogolian Express to their peril.

David L. Robbins crafts such a delicious spine-chilling, thrilling tale centered around the catalyst of Chernobyl reactors and therefore things nuclear. Some of the technical-related jargon may cause some to become bogged down like it did for me. I confess I skimmed over that but since the rest of the narrative spews, sparks and spawns mystery and secret puzzles to solve, it was easy enough to overlook and reconnect with the drama. I suspect physicists and those in related to nuclear terminology will likely find extra interest in this thriller.

I loved Robbins' many bursts of unusual turnout of words. For instance, instead of saying a character shook so-and-so's hand, the tweak was, "he took his hand for a shake," almost as if "he took his dog for a walk". Of course, it's better seen in context. I'd love to list more but I'll refrain. Ha, ha, you'll just have to board that train for yourself.

The only reticence I have about this book is that some readers may not like to read about intimate bedroom scenes.

~Eunice C., Reviewer/Blogger~

September 2023

Disclaimer: This is my honest opinion based on the complimentary review copy sent by NetGalley and the publisher.

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This is a unique tale and one that is thoroughly recommended. It is a travelogue wrapped around a mystery wrapped around conflicting politics.
I gave it the following SCORE:
Setting: China, Mongolia, Russia – 1986 at the time of the Chernobyl disaster
Characters: Seven intriguing and diverse characters, all well-developed and interesting – and all with distinct assignments, motives or political missions.
Overview: Six characters – US, Chinese, Russian, English, Swedish, and Chechen – board the Trans-Mongolian Express in China, headed for Moscow via Mongolia. Each of them has a story, either related to their past, related to their science of radiation, a quest for vengeance, or a government mandate. They all get to know each other as the 5-day journey passes, understanding, only in part, the others’ roles. All goes seemingly smoothly until a Russian overseer, sent to “guide” them through their journey, boards the train at the border. The plot escalates after a Mongolian Sheriff stops the train and joins the group to find who is responsible for a murder. Along the way, the reader is treated to interesting and detailed descriptions of the territory through which the Express passes.
Recommendation: I rate this book 5 stars
Extras: This is a different story from the standard mystery/thriller fare. You know what the crime is and you know who did it. The complex relationships and slow burn of the plot as the train moves on to Moscow are what make this a terrific read. The Mongolian Sheriff, Bat, is a singularly engaging character and deserves to have his own book spinoff.
Thanx to NetGalley and Adler Entertainment Trust for the opportunity to provide this candid review.

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This story brings an immense train journey across Asia, Chernobyl, China, Mongolia, the USSR, and Chechnya it also dabbles into nuclear fission. It is a kind of take your pick this novel brings a little maybe even more to the plate. According to M. Robbins his story roots was inspired by Warren Adler “Trans-Siberian Express” and he simply added his own personal touch after doing intense research.

In the harrowing aftermath of Chernobyl’s meltdown in 1986, the fate of Eastern Europe hangs by a thread. Scientist Lara, a thorn in the Russian mob is drawn back to the Soviet Union on the Mongolian Express. She is not alone Anton, a Soviet scientist exiled for predicting the catastrophe, Timur, a Chechen , plots to destroy the Soviet Union, Gang, a reluctant assassin is also among them and joining the group are a Chinese, Swedish and English personalities. All assigned to the same compartment...Till suddenly, a murder trusts them into a deadly cat and mouse game...and Chief Sheriff Bat races to solve the murder.

This is quite a hard book to read, it moves very slowly as the “Express” stops at many locations across the continent 9,289 km of railway line, about 60 stations from Beijing to Moscow, a 5 day journey. The conversations between the characters are rehashed at every stop and are so packed with technical stuff about fusion and particles fallout and some other technical and political language I find staying tuned was overwhelming. Although quite interesting, along the way we are treated with detailed descriptions of the territory. The plot got better when it escalated into a seemingly exciting one after the body of a Russian overseer was found and Mongolian Sheriff Bat joined the group....“Trans Mongolian Express” is not your standard mystery you know what the crime is, who got murdered and who did it but most of all you are into one of those very slow burning plot.

I stay on the fence with this times in felt like simply closing the book and other times so deeply engaged I simply couldn’t abandoned it. I stuck with it till the end.

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Wow. I loved this. I thought it was smart, historically interesting, took place in a fascinating part of the world, and had extremely different characters. This was well-written, giving each of the 7 main characters a clear, individual voice. That's not easy to do. The historical significance of Chernobyl made this quite an accomplishment.

I judge a book by how much I think about it while I'm not reading it -- I thought about this one a lot. Highly recommended.

I received a complimentary copy of the novel from the publisher and NetGalley, and my review is being given freely.

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The Trans-Mongolian Express travels from Vladivostok to Moscow. The train utilizes multiple engines and one can see some of the loneliest and most desolate areas on the planet.

The accident at Chernobyl is being hidden by the Soviet Union. An American Scientist is being sent by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to identify the problem and identify the damage caused by the nuclear reactor failure.

The Russians, however, have disavowed the accident and are allowing nobody to get within miles of Chernobyl. Assassins have been placed on the train to make sure she does not make it to Chernobyl, however, she becomes attracted to one of the killers.

He has fallen in love with her as well and will allow no one to get close to her. But can he protect her from the killers and the KGB?

This author writes a very interesting and compelling book. The action is multi-dimensional and keeps one’s attention until the end. It reads like a romance novel in the middle of an espionage saga. Enjoy! 4.5 stars – CE Williams

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Trans-Mongolian Express by David L Robbins was surprisingly very entertaining.
The setting and wring drew me in and held me captive till the very end.
I really enjoyed this story and thought it was compelling.
The action, drama and characters was so interesting I couldn’t stop flipping the pages.

Thank You NetGalley and Book Whisperer for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this amazing eARC!

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The Trans-Mongolian Express by David L. Robbins drops the reader into the developing Chernobyl melt-down in Russian held Ukraine. While the world holds its breath in the Soviet information black-out, the Trans-Mongolian Express carries an uncomfortable combination of compelling characters toward Moscow. Each character brings their own danger and threat. And yet, they bond, sort of. The constantly changing motion of the train’s passage through deserts, over mountains, around and over huge bodies of water dictates the pace of the story. The scenery sounded spectacular. The food was frightening. The story is gripping,

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In 1999 I travelled on the Trans-Mongolian Express to Beijing, so when I was offered an ARC of this book, I was very excited. It is based on a book from the 1970s called Trans-Siberian Express (by Warren Adler), which I’m not familiar with.

The book has a slow start with a slightly pretentious and unnecessary epilogue (maybe to mirror the original book?) and some chapters that set up the characters’ background. Once everyone is on the train, the pace picks up. Some people get murdered but it’s nothing like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, because in this book we know who were killed, by whom and why. The short chapters from different POVs made it a compelling read.

The attention to detail was incredible, which was something I loved when they described the train journey, but found a little too much when the focus was on nuclear energy. For me, it was sometimes difficult to suspend my disbelief about the characters motivations and actions. I would have liked to have more interaction between the characters to make them more three-dimensional. This would also have provided a slower built-up to murder. Now it was often a case of information was shared and extreme action was taken. I never even understood how and why Lara and Gang got together. The author attempted to make Lara a clever and tough woman, but somehow an important part of the plot was focused on her relationship with Gang. And several times her main feature seemed to be her sexual attractiveness. Something similar can be said about the only other female character, the conductress. Again, this may be a remnant from the original 1970s book.

I mostly enjoyed the book, and it made me reminisce about my own experience on the train which was very similar in some ways but different in others (the number of stops, the other people, and, of course, the deaths).
3.5 stars rounded up to 4 because of the setting.

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I was initially uncertain whether I would like the story, but "Trans-Mongolian Express" was an interesting and enjoyable book, especially once the murder occurred and Bat, the chief of police in a small Mongolian city, became involved. The travelers in the second-class carriage were an eclectic group — an English diplomat and fop (Sinjin); a Swedish nuclear scientist (Bjorn); an American nuclear scientist and former cop (Lara); a Chinese assassin (Gang); a Russian nuclear scientist (Anton); and a Chechen giant (Timur). Most of these individuals are traveling from Beijing to Moscow due to the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, to investigate it and/or expose the Russian government’s efforts to cover it up, or to help with the cleanup. However, as Anton shares with the group what is likely happening at Chernobyl and what the risks are, Timur sees a way to take advantage of the situation to get revenge on Russia, and shares his plan with Anton, believing that Anton has no way to stop him. Anton and Lara both have good reasons not to return to Russia, but neither intends to let the risks stop them. Yet everything becomes more complicated when a Russian minder angers the wrong people and has to be eliminated, and then his body is discovered much quicker and easier than expected, which results in Bat joining the train to investigate the possible murder. He is clever and resourceful, managing to get various passengers to admit things without realizing it, but the puzzle of what exactly happened and why is a struggle to solve. Unlikely friendships and alliances will be made and then tested.

The story has lots of twists and turns, with some unexpected events. I enjoyed the interactions between the major characters, and the complexity of the characters. Timur was probably my favorite, but Bat, Lara and Gang were quite enjoyable as well. Sinjin is probably the most surprising character in the end. I enjoyed the description of the train journey—the different cities and towns through which it traveled, the changing landscape, the modifications to the train as it travelled from China to Mongolia to Russia, the differences between the accommodations of the common passengers and the second class passengers, and the oddity of the train switching to Moscow time upon entering Russia even though there were multiple time zones to cross as the train travelled across much of Russia.

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Buckle your seatbelt and hang on to your hat when you open this spy thriller. Travel back to the days of Reagan and Gorbachev. Author David L. Robbins crafts a thriller set on a train traveling between Beijing and Moscow on the Trans-Mongolian Express.

Dr. Laura Dill has a unique background of being a Boston cop turned nuclear scientist, Anton - a Russian whistle-blower who predicted the Chernobyl meltdown, Timor – a tunnel expert who worked with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, Gang – an assassin sent to stop Laura’s return to Russia, plus a series of incredibly interesting characters traveling together heading towards the Chernobyl crisis. Each has their own reasons and back story of why it is critical that they reach their destination.

A murder along the way sets the action and intrigue into high gear. Agatha Christie surrender. David L. Robbins has penned the ultimate murder-on-a-train novel. Exciting to the end.

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Diplomats and internationals find themselves all traveling across China to the USSR,, each to respond to the Chernobyl nuclear accident. A murder among them while traveling needs to be solved. An exciting read.

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I read this book as a pre-release e-book obtained through NetGalley, provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

In a word: Wow!

I would probably give this 6 stars if I could! This is probably one of the top-ten fiction books I've ever read! I could not help but think about it and predict what would happen in upcoming chapters while I went about other tasks during the days I was reading it.

This book has everything! It’s historical fiction about a nuclear disaster that threatened the world. There’s a politically-motivated conspiracy of silence by the Soviet Union surrounding Chernobyl. It’s a train story. It’s a spy story. There are assassins and mob ties. There are terrorists. There is science. There is murder. There is a bit of romance without being overly graphic. It’s an amazing travelogue with an incredible amount of accurate detail. The 7 main characters, each with hidden motivations and secrets, are fleshed-out and believable.

Although the scientific facts, as they unfolded over time, as well as the theories involved were discussed, which was interesting to me and would be to anyone with an appropriate scientific background, detailed scientific discussion was unimportant to the overall plot. Just knowing that radiation exposure, meltdowns, explosions and large-area fallout are “really bad” is sufficient to propel the story.

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This novel by David L. Robbins was terrific! Intense, intriguing and engaging, I loved it and couldn’t put it down! Set against the disaster of Chernobyl, a group of interesting characters board the Trans Mongolian Express in Beijing and ride it the entire way across Russia to Moscow. The murders that happen which (enter Bat, an American west styled sheriff) make for an engrossing Who Done It! It’s a fast read that travels as quickly as the train. I recommend this novel with the highest accolades….just be prepared for the ride!

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Trans-Mongolian Express by David L. Robbins takes readers on an intense and action-packed journey from Beijing to Moscow, weaving a Cold War-era thriller around the infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The narrative unfolds seamlessly, resembling a gripping movie, with intricate storytelling that expertly balances character development, scene setting, and suspense. The deadly cat-and-mouse game, initiated by a murder, keeps readers engaged, while the looming nuclear disaster intensifies the stakes. The vivid descriptions and captivating scenes create a cinematic experience, prompting a fervent wish for the book's adaptation into a TV or movie format. Trans-Mongolian Express is a must-read for enthusiasts of Cold War-era thrillers set against the backdrop of a railway journey, offering a captivating blend of mystery, suspense, and expertly depicted characters and scenes.

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Fast-paced edge of your seat adventure blending history, politics, psychological thriller, and spies into one can’t put down novel.

I’ve been fascinated by Russian history since my college days and find blending history and fiction an excellent way to tell a story.

The title intrigued me but the story kept me reading in a one night marathon (sleep is overrated).

Well worth the time.

I just reviewed Trans-Mongolian Express by David L Robbins. #TransMongolianExpress #NetGalley

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An adventure-spy-caper story set across Asia that started strong but then seemed to meander around as the story progressed. I had a hard time connecting with the characters and staying engaged with the story. Many may enjoy this one, it just wasn’t for me. Thanks to NetGalley for a chance to read and review this book.

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Strangers on a Train

This tale evokes those late 1930s – early 1940s black-and-white films with people on trains into mysterious activities and complex relationships.

It’s 1986: Chernobyl has happened though being concealed initially by the Soviets. For different reasons six people living in Beijing are pressured to travel back to the Soviet Union to learn more about what has happened. Some are returning reluctantly because they are essentially persona not grata in the Soviet Union. Means of getting there is the Trans-Mongolian Express.

Initially, the premise of David L. Robbins’ 2024 “Trans-Mongolian Express” has engaging elements of intrigue and complex characters. The initial six – Lara Dill, American nuclear scientist; her travelling companion and UN observer, Bjorn; exiled Soviet nuclear scientist and engineer, Anton; Timur, a Chechen who has fought with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan; Gang, a Chinese- American with some very unusual skills; and Sinjin, a British traveler interested in mushrooms (or is he?).

They all board and share compartment on the five-day train ride across China, Mongolia and Russia to Moscow. At first the relationships are reasonably open. As you might expect, some share knowledge of nuclear physics and the implications for potential catastrophe at Chernobyl. While interesting, the discussion of reactor meltdowns and containment gets lengthy.

Without giving away too much about the plot, an original character, Bat, a Mongolian policeman, becomes involved with the passengers due to the suspicious death of a Soviet Union “escort”, Maxim Maximovich Sprygin, who was assigned to the group. Bat turns out to be an original character, both insightful and pragmatic by the novel’s conclusion. In fact, all the characters are well drawn and distinctive people.

Like the five-day journey from Asia (Beijing) to Europe (Moscow), the storyline is entertaining at first but gets a little long when the train reaches it destination. At a certain point the descriptions of the countrysides, the train stations, the cities and towns drag on the plot momentum and what people are doing to each other. There are some unexpected twists at the end with amusing results and heroes (like the ending to the film, “From Russia with Love”).

The Trans-Mongolian railway is currently reported to be not operating due to the war in Ukraine and international sanctions placed on Russia.

So, if you need escapism to some interesting international destinations with quirky fellow-travelers for a few days, this book may be your ticket to ride.

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A fascinating mystery/thriller based on Russian history during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. An American scientist to investigate the nuclear fallout along with six other characters with different agendas and political missions are on board the trans-Mongolian express from Beijing to Moscow. A suspicious death on the train derails the journey. Intrigued with who had done it keeps you tethered and captivated to the book.

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Trans-Mongolian Express
By David L. Robbins

This book is about many things. It begins with a Russian nuclear physicist, who has created a report on the possible flaws in the Russian power plant at Chernobyl. Rather than accepting his report and endeavoring to correct the flaws and avert disaster, the government exiles Anton Epstein to Beijing.

Lara Dill, a US embassy worker in Russia and also an expert on the long term health implications of a nuclear disaster, has been ordered out of Russia, never to return, when she has discovered that the Russian mob has been selling radioactive materials to the Afghans. She is also now stationed in Beijing.

When the Chernobyl disaster happens, and the Russians are trying to cover it up, these two scientists, along with assorted others with a vested interest in finding out what is really happening, board the Trans-Mongolian Express for the long journey from Beijing to Moscow. Their traveling companions include Bjorn, Lara's Swedish co-worker; Timor, a giant of a man and a Moslim mujahideen with deep loathing against all things Russian; Sinjin, a British diplomat who seems to be something more than the pampered diletante he appears to be; and Gang, a Chinese man who is a professional assassin. Along the way deaths start happening – reminiscent of "Murder on the Orient Express". Bat, a Mongolian sheriff who dresses like an old west cowboy, comes aboard to solve the first murder. He is a shaman who speaks to the spirits. He throws a monkey wrench in everyone's plans.

This story is cleverly done as a murder mystery. But more, it gives the reader a clearer picture of what the horror of this type of disaster might mean for mankind. Bravo, Mr. Robbins, for an original story where there has been a dearth of those!

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Russia, Russian-intelligence, Russian-mob, Chernoble, assassins, crime-thriller, fiction, erotica, exiled, vengeance, unputdownable, murders, torture, historical-figures, historical-places-events, historical-research, history-and-culture, action, suspense, thriller, Cold War-era, terrorists, global-issues, international-tensions, witty, China, Mongolia, humor*****

From Beijing to Moscow by rail across the most desolate of countrysides, an interesting group of outcasts, each with his own agenda, are closeted together in an interesting time in history. The story is gripping, irregularly paced, spattered with real facts, well researched, has understandable characters, and beautiful, if stark, scenery. I really enjoyed this fascinating read!
I requested and received an EARC from Adler Entertainment Trust via NetGalley. Thank you!

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