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The Insane Train (Hook Runyon Mystery #2)

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3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  148 ratings  ·  43 reviews

After a devastating fire at an insane asylum in California, Hook Runyon has been put in charge of security for a train that is to transport the survivors to a new destination. Hook hires a motley crew of World War II veterans to help, but things soon go awry…

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published (first published November 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 249)
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Patricia Weenolsen
On this, my first outing with Sheldon Russell, I expected to find myself aboard the caboose on a thrilling non-stop ride with great characters careening through an insane plot, as my fellow reviewers had assured me. The story tracks a motley assortment of homeless vets and asylum staff members in the 1940s, including "Hook", the one-armed hero hired by the railroad to cuff hoboes for a living; all are escorting criminally insane patients from a burned-out asylum in one state to a new one in anot ...more
Carol
This is my kind of book. Quirky, quirky, quirky! 'The Insane Train’ will have a special place on my bookshelf. I know that I will re-read it in the future.

Yard Dog Hoot Runyon lives in a caboose that teeters from his passion of rare books. You can see his experiences written across his face. He also has a weird type of philosophy. His dog, Mixer loves to chew whatever he chooses, man or creature destroyed or he is stopped by Hoot. Yet he is gentle too.

Andrea Rose is sweet nurse who had wanted t
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Lucinda
The Insane Train (Minotaur 2010), set at the end of WWII, finds one-armed railroad security agent Hook Runyon banished to Barstow after leaving a company truck parked on the rails while pursuing a thief. When the Baldwin Insane Asylum is burned, killing 30 inmates, Hook is given the task of moving the rest of the patients to Oklahoma. Hook’s observations of the insane asylum and its patients reveal the inadequate treatment and limited understanding of mental illness in the 1940s. The low-securit ...more
Douglas Lord
Hook Runyon has one arm and works as railroad security (a.k.a. a yard dog) in Barstow, California in the late 1940s. He’s under constant scrutiny from bosses for his effective, if unorthodox, methods of solving problems—usually at the railroad’s great expense. In his second adventure after The Yard Dog (2009), Hook is assigned to provide assistance to an insane asylum transporting its patients to Oklahoma via the railroad. The asylum has just had a massive fire that killed 30 inmates, so the pre ...more
Ryan G
I'm going to be honest right up front, the only reason I agreed to read this was because it took place on a train. I'm a sucker for anything mysterious happening on trains. I blame it all on Agatha Christie. After reading Murder On The Orient Express, The Mystery of the Blue Train, and 4:50 From Padington, I was hooked. Throw in the movie, "Strangers on a Train", from Alfred Hitchcock and nothing could turn me off of a good mystery set on a train.

So needless to say I awaited the arrival of this
...more
MaryAnn
I really like these characters! Hook Runyon, to whom we were introduced in "Yard Dog", lives in a boxcar, works for the railroad, and has a hook on the end of one arm--a result of a car accident. All the good guys, as in the previous book, are flawed in some way (aren't we all?) but they manage to solve the crimes and catch the villians in the end. Mixer, the dog, is a new character in this novel and is a great addition to the team.
Michelle
Okay, another niche mystery series: A railroad security agent solves crimes. But its good writing, full of train details, and set in the 1940's when vets were trying to recover from the war.
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
After a quick start I was all set for this to be a great book. Epic FAIL! I stopped reading it after the 3rd chapter.
Debbie Heaton
In Russell’s mystery novel, one-armed railroad detective Hook Runyan is tasked with transporting fifty dangerous inmates across the country after their insane asylum burns down. With no local security team in place, the seasoned detective assembles a crew of homeless WW II vets to assist him.
A series of unexplained deaths follow as he tries to safeguard the patients as well as Hook’s own team, while he searches for answers. But insanity is just the beginning as a killer is determined to finish
...more
Gary Conrad
"The Insane Train" is the first book I have read by Sheldon Russell, and I was not disappointed. What a story it was! Without doubt, it was one the most unique murder mysteries I have ever read. What phrases could describe it? One of a kind? Unexpected happenings? Bizarre twists?
I highly recommend this book for connoisseurs of murder mysteries. Just when you think you've seen it all, you run across this book, I promise you will enjoy the ride - I certainly did.
Gary D. Conrad
Author of "Murder on
...more
Wendy Hines
When I first saw the title of this book, I had to read it. Who wants to ride on a train with bunch of crazies?

Yard dog Hook Runyon returns in his second book of Sheldon Russell's 1940's mystery series. Hook only has one arm, one dog, and is currently up at the disciplinary hearing from something that happened back in book one. But regardless of the impending hearing, someone is needed for a new job, and it seems Hank's number has come up.

The Baldwin Insane Asylum in Barstow, California burned d
...more
Kristen
This was the first book I reviewed for The Historical Novel Society's quarterly review, a great publication you can hold in your hands and mark up, with literally hundreds of reviews of upcoming historical novels. Free with membership....

Like an old Humphrey Bogart movie, this second Hook Runyon mystery features wisecracking tough guys making their way through a gritty, mid-1940s West. A California asylum for the criminally insane has suspiciously burned and Hook, a one-armed railroad cop, must
...more
John Onoda
This is a novel set in post-World War II America. The plot is simple. A train inspector (yard dog) must oversee the transfer of inmates from a mental institituion in California to one in Oklahoma. Among the inmates are a contingent of criminally insane men, many of whom are extremely dangerous. The inspector is Hook Runyon, his name reflecting the fact that he is one armed and comes equipped with a prosthetic hook. He'll need it to survive the journey.

Author Sheldon Russel write clean prose and
...more
drey
Hook Runyon just can't catch a break. He might lose his job. He picks up a stray mutt. And now he has to figure out how to move a train load of inmates from the Baldwin Insane Asylum in Barstow, California to Oklahoma. Along an old track. With an old train...

And then people start dying. Actually, they started that before he got pulled into doing the insane train thing. But that wasn't on his watch, like these new ones are... But to find out what's going on, Hook has to start at the beginning.

Th
...more
Clay Nichols
A stolidly constructed hard-boiled with a winning one-armed protagonist and plenty of zippy dialog. It's a fun train ride, don't get me wrong, but the insane asylum milieu wasn't all that compelling, and now I've got to put off reading that Denis Lehane book for another couple of months. The real reason I was attracted to the novel was the setting -- or should I say environment? It's a road movie of a book, so the setting is constantly changing. Anyway, the protagonist, Hook Runyon, is a railroa ...more
Ellen Keim
The main character was a little too flip for my taste and many of the characters seemed to have the same way of talking, so it was hard to differentiate one from the other. There was no real sense of menace. I liked the atmosphere, though, and the descriptions of insanity and insane asylums, trains and railroads, and police and law enforcement in the post-WWII years. The mystery itself was passable and the main character, while suspicious of what was going on, seemed a little too slow on the upt ...more
Charles Cooper
The southwest of the WWII era is brilliantly captured by Sheldon Russell in The Insane Train. The novel is a great read full of pathos and suspense as it looks at the hard issues that surround mental illness, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Hook Runyon is one of the most interesting characters I have come across in a long time. What can compare with someone who lives in a caboose, collects books, and never lets his handicap get in his way? I look forward to reading more books by ...more
Melinda
Solid 4. verging on 4.5. This HOOK mystery is an excellent follow-up to book 1 and worthy of a read. Found the Hook character has developed strength & confidence giving him an ease in his own skin thus allowing him to work with the Baldwin Insane crew,jungle crew and RR company with empathy. Enjoyed the story while exposing the ugliness of early US mental care, care/recycling of vets & non-rippling, invisible peoples. Good Job Mr Russell, we await Hook 3
Katherine
I liked this book much more than I expected to for several reasons. First, the characters and the time the story takes place are both new elements to me. I have never read anything about the hardships of returning WWII soldiers, or about the hobos and the railroads. Secondly, the action and suspense kept the plot moving and held my interest through out the book. Hook becomes a very likeable character.
Carol Crigger
Mr. Russell has such a wonderful grasp of the setting (this one from Barstow, CA to Oklahoma) and the WWII War years. As always, we have a strong female character to put the series hero, Hook Runyon, on his mettle to solve an excellent mystery. The treatment of mental illness during this time as depicted in the story is a real education.
Hawk
Took a great deal of time to get going (chapter 18) almost gave up on it. But once started up it just puttered along. Predictable with key plot points telegraphed chapters in advance. This is a series but I will not read more. I liked the protagonist, Hook, liked the railway setting. Those are the only things that counted for points.
Karen & Gerard
Enjoy the ride! Insane Train by Sheldon Russell tells the story of a detective named Hook, whose job it is to safe guard a train of patients from an insane asylum to Oklahoma. As you can imagine, not everything goes as planned. This is a fun mystery that will keep you guessing who the killer is. I enjoyed it.
Harlequin Books
Miniseries: A Hook Runyon Mystery
María Marjem
Siguiendo la sugerencia de un amigo, que sabe que disfruto de las novelas de Chandler, comenzé la lectura de este libro. Y, aunque, no llega a la altura de Chandler es una buena obra que consigue enganchar al lector desde el principio con el ambiente oscuro y el desarrollo de los personajes.
Jackie
I liked this mystery by Russell, the first I've read by this author. Interesting details about the railroad as well as details of how mentally ill were treated in the '40's. Good narrative kept me interested in the mystery that is the basis of the plot.
Dave Hoff
Russell's Hook Runyon made me think of Cussler's Isaac Bell. Maybe Hook's past reminds me of the hobos I remember who cooked some meals down river from our home. Rereading this book, Hook and Isaac have little in common except a amazing way of crime solving.
Elyse Rudin
Great title with great plot and so so story. An insane asylum burns down and a railroad sheriff among others must transport the patients by train to another location. The crazy ones turn out to be the "normal" people. Boring and a bit silly.
Lorri
Wonderful to discover this new series! A fascinating trip back in time to the railroads and hobo jungles of the '30s. Excellent descriptive writing, characterization, and vernacular. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
Zora
Not as good as the first one, and the mystery gets solved in rather a deus ex machina way, but still good writing and interesting characters.
Chris
Just awful. An interesting but overly contrived premise which I kept waiting to be developed. After almost 100 pages of silliness I gave up.
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