Sunday Review: Ghost Train

Ghost Train by Jeff Breland

2 Stars

Ghost Train is a frustrating story. It has some interesting concepts and does a fairly good job in setting up the plot, but ultimately, the story goes nowhere.

We first meet Sarah, a nurse coming home from the night shift. As she is driving, she notices an odd train on the tracks next to her. The train ends up on a spur near an old abandoned lunatic asylum. Curious, Sara pulls off the road to investigate. Very shortly, she discovers she can see no one operating the train but does see ghostly apparitions coming from the ruins of the mental hospital.

Next we meet Frank “Pops” Marsh, a security guard at the Galveston Railroad Museum. Pops, in the course of checking the grounds of the museum, climbs into a passenger car that seems hooked to wrong the type of engine. Unsurprisingly, Pops falls asleep and awakes to discover he is on the ghost train.

Then we meet Elias Crane, a grave digger who lives on the cemetery grounds. He too catches sight of the unusual train and sees ghosts getting on board the train. Elias quits his job and decides to go live with his sister in Louisiana.

Deputy Sheriff Ansell Cromwell encounters the Ghost Train while setting up a speed trap to catch an infamous teenage speedster. He is followed by Amos Taylor, night fisherman, seeing the train on an old bridge above Taylor’s fishing grounds.

Each of their encounters with the train and its unearthly occupants builds up the stakes as to what is happening and why it is. The payoff is very unsatisfying. By the time we learn who is responsible and how she is doing it; the reader finds they really don’t care. (It involves the work of the famous voodoo priestess Marie Laveau). The motivation of the person who is responsible for the Ghost Train could have been interesting. But this portion of the story felt tacked on almost as an after-thought. It didn’t really mesh with the rest of the tale and was dealt with in a perfunctory manner.

There were also a lot of characters that don’t really seem have much to do with the plot and probably could have been dispensed with. It causes the plot to drag at times and by the end, some of the characters have no real importance other than acting as some sort of confirmation that the train is “real” (Such as Sara the nurse or Pops or Elias). Had the story focused on the deputy sheriff Cromwell and Amos Taylor and the person working on behalf of Marie responsible for the ghost train, I think the story would have been better paced.

The editing of the story wasn’t particularly good. There were some glitches in the grammar and punctuation that were noticeable and caused me to stop and try to figure out what was meant. Other times, the author used twenty words to describe something that could have been said in seven or eight. These errors pull the reader out of the story. Also a minor quibble, but the table of contents, the chapter numbering suddenly changes from ordinals to words (i.e. Chapter 3, Chapter Four).

There are a lot of interesting ideas and concepts at play, they just don’t seem to gel anytime in the story. Which is a shame because it seems like there is a good story just screaming to get out. But while this is a tale with a lot of potential, the problems simply derail the story and make it a disappointment.

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