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The Insane Train (Hook Runyon Mystery #2)

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  174 Ratings  ·  51 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, alongside the head of the asylum, Dr. Baldwin, the attending doctor, taciturn Dr. Helms, and a self-sacrificing nurse named Andrea, to a new location in Oklahoma. Hook hires a motley crew of WW II veterans to help, and t ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by Minotaur Books (first published November 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 318)
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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
Sep 22, 2011 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 08, 2011 Lucinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
The Insane Train (Hook Runyon #2) by Sheldon Russell

Synopsis of The Insane Train

Written by Sheldon Russell, the book The Insane Train about a mystery case that surrounds a fire at the Baldwin Insane Asylum located in Barstow, California and Hook Runyon must transfer the patients to another facility due to the damage to the previous facility. In the midst of doing so, Hook must figure out if someone is behind this fire and why they would do so. Throughout the story, Hook must cooperate with the employees at the asylum and gather as much informat
Steven Howes
I enjoy books dealing with railroad history and especially those focusing on the World War II era. This one fits the bill with the main character being a one-armed Santa Fe Railroad detective (Hook Runyon) working out of Barstow, California. Hook and a ragtag bunch of homeless army vets assist in the transport of inmates of an insane asylum from California to Oklahoma following a disastrous fire. As you might imagine, this sets the stage for much intrigue, mystery, and mayhem. Throw in some roma ...more
Linda Brue
Jan 09, 2015 Linda Brue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Publication summary: "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, alongside the head of the asylum, Dr. Baldwin, the attending doctor, taciturn Dr. Helms, and a self-sacrificing nurse named Andrea, to a new location in Oklahoma. Hook hires a motley crew of WW II veterans to help, and they set out for the new destination. But things go awry on the Insane Train, as several inmates and att ...more
Douglas Lord
Jul 28, 2014 Douglas Lord rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Carlene Amaro
Dec 17, 2015 Carlene Amaro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This the second book with the Hook Runyon main character that I have read, and it was even better than the first. The cast of characters was interesting, and the author's strategy of fleshing out both the characters and the plot bit by bit was more effective in this story. I am one of those readers who keeps trying to guess who "did it" and what will happen. Russell kept me wondering without any of the contrived cheats that some authors use and without overwhelming amounts of last minute informa ...more
Mar 16, 2011 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Gary Conrad
May 29, 2014 Gary Conrad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Wendy Hines
Jun 26, 2013 Wendy Hines rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2011 Kristen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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
CoffeeTimeRomance andMore
This classic mystery provides an unlikely hero in Hook Runyon. Readers will enjoy his quick mind and rough edges as he navigates this carefully orchestrated murder plot. Though this is the second in the series it is not necessary to read these books in order.
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More

Official Review @ Coffee Time Romance & More
May 03, 2015 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main character, Hook, is a tough but likable guy just trying to do his job. He doesn't let the fact that he only has one arm slow him down. Neither does he let the disapproval by his railroad bosses of his not-always-by-the-book methods hinder his investigations.

I like the setting, 1940s railroad industry and I like the writing style. Spare but evoking of the era and the people of that time. I felt like I was on that train.
Jan 20, 2016 CYNTHIA rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Hook Runyon is a one-armed yard dog (railroad security) in 1940s California. When a fire burns down part of the Baldwin Insane Asylum in Barstow, Hook is assigned to oversee transportation of the remaining inmates to an abandoned military fort in Oklahoma. Hook becomes the detective who solves the mystery of the fire and a couple of murders. A quirky mystery involving WWII vets and a dedicated nurse where everything is not as it seems.
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.

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
Jan 22, 2016 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great reading about trains, homeless men, and insane asylums.
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
Sep 04, 2013 Charles Cooper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 14, 2011 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 24, 2012 Carol Crigger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 12, 2011 Hawk rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
María Lourenzo
Dec 14, 2010 María Lourenzo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mistery, english
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.
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