Zakk reviews The Train Derails in Boston by Jessica McHugh

Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness presents “Simple reviews from a simple reader…”

Zakk reviews The Train Derails in Boston by Jessica McHugh. 346 pages published by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.

“After the hair-pulling and shit-slinging torture of sobriety, Rebecca welcomes the disorientation of a good old-fashioned drunk drive. Vodka might steer her astray, but at least she can hold the wheel without shaking. At least she can keep her eyes open without sweat pouring in.

Peter won’t notice the indulgence; he’s too focused on his new career. She snorts a chuckle and shakes her head. It’s strange—she thought he was a loser when he quit his job to write a book, but he’s lost even more of her respect now that he’s a failed scientist and a failed novelist.”


CHERRYWOOD LODGE IS HAUNTED, AND THANK FUCK FOR ITS GHOSTS . . . Rebecca Malone has problems. Not just the alcohol. Not just her husband’s inane attempts at writing a bestselling novel, their teenage daughter’s promiscuity, or her certifiable mother. Not even her lover, who wants to take her husband’s place in Cherrywood Lodge, the famous estate she now calls home. Her biggest issues start the moment she discovers a chest of ancient mahjong tiles in the basement of her new house, causing her life to spin out of control with hallucinations, sexual deviances, and grisly murders. Is the mahjong game haunted? Or are Rebecca’s problems part of a different game, started before she was born?

“A part of Beth believe it’s wrong, and it screams for her to run back to Overbrook, but then there’s the house, coaxing her musically to stay. Who wants to listen to shrieking when there’s a lullaby on the breeze, floating from such a beautifully contoured face?”

I’ve decided to whip this up whilst intoxicated. That may be a bit of an unprofessional angle but hey, it fits the story and I need a drink. It’s the way Jessica McHugh would want it. That’s probably the furthest thing from the truth, but it’s definitely how Rebecca Malone would want it. I wonder if this is gonna end up as something I’ll need to apologize for tomorrow.

The Train Derails in Boston, a clever title for a dark as fuck read. When the title clicks it’ll hit like a vagrant brick. First off, trigger warning! This read has a shit ton of fornication going on. It’s almost non-stop through the first half of the book (and still quite prevalent throughout the second half.) And not so much in the way of hot whoopie, but more of the damaged, compulsive grudge business. So, brace yourself, there’s going to be some stuff going on. This could be a turn off for some. Not so much me although I found it a bit distracting, but not a hindrance. It is some of the most fluid (wink) sex scenes I’ve read, and there is some important clues to be garnered within. So pay attention. Could the info have been revealed in other ways? Maybe, maybe not. It’s an author’s job to tell a story. It is a reader’s job to find the connection. I did learn some things though, so….

At the heart of the book, and at the heart of this haunted house, is a tale of disfunction. Broken people finding damaged ways to make amends for youthful indiscretions. Mistakes. Finding the most abrasive way to extract revenge. Trying to disprove the notion of two wrongs not making a right like they’re trying to cure cancer. It’s really a heartbreaking chain of events, with pieces dropped methodically, link by tarnished, rusty link. When the final piece falls, you may let out an audible “god damn”. I did anyway.

I loved the entire cast here, in all of their shattered glory. This book pumps heat, emotion, and it all exudes from this great collection of souls. They feel like real people, facing honest problems, and making bad decisions on realistic choices. The words they speak are aimed to hurt, just like the real people you pass each and every day, bless their hearts.

This is my first McHugh read and The Train Derails in Boston had a lot of hype built up around it. Not just the book itself but concerning Jessica’s writing as well. It’s isn’t hype, it’s truth. She’s a dangerous and energetic storyteller. This won’t be my last.

Jessica’s style is consuming and intoxicating, the words swinging like barbed hooks. Chaos reigns as the tale bounces around five plus decades. There is a lot going on, most of it sour. The copious amounts of sex was still a bit of a distraction, but the rest of this book is a rock solid, onyx black heart.

And I dug it quite a bit.

I’ll never look at a mahjong set the same way.

Blurb on the drop of a dime: The Train Derails in Boston is dark fiction money shot on the chin. If Requiem for a Dream poked a hole in The House on Haunted Hill’s diaphragm right before prom… Only to find her after the dance in the bathroom with Penthouse Forums. The resulting catastrophe would be The Train Derails in Boston. From Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.

“’Forget it. One answer would be a lie, and the other would be a disappointment.’”

Overall score: 4.5/ 5

Zakk is a big dumb animal!

**Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher on the promise of an honest review. These are my unbiased feelings.

About Jessica McHugh:

Jessica McHugh is an author of speculative fiction spanning the genre from horror and alternate history to epic fantasy. A prolific writer, she has devoted herself to novels, short stories, poetry, and playwriting. She has had sixteen books published in six years, including the bestselling “Rabbits in the Garden,” her bizarro sci-fi novel, “The Green Kangaroos,” and the first book in her edgy YA series, “Darla Decker Diaries.”


Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing

And while you’re here, check out The Eyes of Madness at:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s