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The Train Rider - Book Review

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Published September 23rd 2014
Unfinished business returns to haunt Darian Richards
Tony Cavanaugh ramps it up in his third instalment of the Darian Richards series of investigative novels, The Train Rider.

This time, Darian is forced to confront a ghost from his past. The serial killer whom he could not bring to justice during his time in the Victorian police as the Head of Homicide is now living up on the Sunshine Coast. Several girls have disappeared from trains and are believed to have been killed. Darian has long retired and all he wants to do is to relax by the Noosa River and settle down with his new girlfriend Rose, but is forced into the hunt for the killer, almost destroying his relationship in the process.

Ramping it up: The Train Rider by Tony Cavanaugh, in which a notorious killer from Darian Richards's past reappears on the Sunshine Coast, leaving a trail of innocent victims

As always, Darian is aided by Maria, an ambitious young officer with the local police and the partner of his only friend Casey, a former underworld figure from Melbourne who now lives on the Sunshine Coast too. The conflict between Darian's moral code and Maria's adherence to the law is a constant feature in all Cavanaugh's books in the same series. Another notable character is the computer geek Isosceles, who gets some mileage of his own in The Train Rider. The parallels between Isosceles and genius hacker Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium series are hard to dismiss.

In all of Cavanaugh's books, the perpetrators often speak in their own voices, allowing readers some insight into their twisted minds. This is both "convincing and frightening", in the words of the Herald Sun. As Graeme Blundell puts it, it is "not for the faint-hearted". The ability of the mysterious killer dubbed the "Train Rider" hence the title of this book to evade capture and stay outside the reach of the law somewhat brings to mind Perth's notorious Claremont Serial Killer in the 1990s. As most of the action takes place on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, readers are literally given a virtual tour of the region.

In The Train Rider and all Cavanaugh's other books featuring Darian Richards, there appear to be no strong female characters. Most of them are often depicted as objects of male gaze. Even the wife of one of the main suspects attempts to act in a seductive manner in this book. While Maria commands some degree of authority, she is occasionally compared to Raquel Welch, with whom Isosceles has an infatuation with.

The Train Rider features a fast-paced plot line that picks up early in the narrative. At the climax, the protagonists discover a macabre find in a deserted house out in the bush, which conjures up images from the Channel Seven telemovie The Killing Field.

This book is for fans of P M Newton's Nhu Kelly series and those who enjoy reading police procedurals. In fact, one could be forgiven for mistaking Cavanaugh for an ex-cop given the extensive detail he puts into describing police work.
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