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22 Thrilling & Chilling Books Set On Trains

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If you love to travel by train, we have just the reading list for you! Don’t miss these books set on trains to inspire (or detract) your next vacation by rail.

Nothing beats sitting on a train from Florence to Lucca, watching as the Italian countryside blurs by. The anticipation of the destination — bike riding on the city’s walls — is half of the adventure.

Personally, I love travel writing on long train rides. There is something especially soothing and meditative about a train’s gentle sway.

In literature, trains represent a way for people to escape or daydream. They possess both positive and negative connotations. Trains carry people to work, new lives, and exotic destinations. Strangers and friends converge.

Trains also offer up the unknown. Sometimes they are an ominous setting filled with death and heartbreak. They might be a last-minute attempt to escape or resolve a situation. Trains are hope.

For our April 2021 Uncorked Reading Challenge, we are exploring some of the best books set on trains. Don’t miss these train thrillers, train-set mysteries, and contemporary and historical fiction train novels sure to make you want to hop on or off a train.

For some of these books, trains or their tracks will sit in the backdrop. For others, one train ride might change their entire life.

Read more Books Set Around The World.

Books Set On Trains with train tracks and sunset
What are a few good thrilling books featuring trains? Let’s get started!

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Historical Fiction Books Set On Trains

The Last Train To Key West by Chanel Cleeton book cover with woman wearing a yellow sunflower dress on the beach with palm trees

The Last Train To Key West by Chanel Cleeton

For one of my favorite books about trains, The Last Train To Key West is slightly a stretch but also a must-read historical fiction novel featuring inspiring women. You do not have to read the first two in the ‘series.’

Cheer for pregnant Helen who is trapped in an abusive marriage. Watch Mirta question if she can fall in love with her new mafia-tied husband. Keep an eye out for Elizabeth who is looking for her veteran war brother to escape being married to a criminal.

Their lives collide during Florida’s deadliest hurricane in the mid-1930s.  Uncover multiple romances and a gripping narrative to devour in one or two sittings against the brief backdrop of Flagler’s railroad to Key West. Amazon | Goodreads | Read More


If you love Strong Women In Historical Fiction, Don’t Miss This Book List.


Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline book cover

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Based on the 1854-1929 ‘orphan trains’ that carried abandoned children from the East Coast to the rural Midwest, readers meet Vivian Daly, an Irish immigrant. Vivian recalls her childhood when a young woman helps clean out her attic.

Molly is a Penobscot Indian and foster child completing community service for Vivian. With their budding friendship, the two learn more about survival and second chances.

It’s been a while since I’ve read Orphan Train, but it was a solid 3.5-star historical fiction read, for me. Amazon | Goodreads | Read More


Travel around the world with our 2021 Uncorked Reading Challenge. Never be late to the party again with unique new book releases. Sign Up Now.


Outbound Train by Renea Winchester

Outbound Train by Renea Winchester

For indie books set on trains, don’t miss Renea Winchester’s Outbound Train. Set in Bryson City, North Carolina, head to the 1960s where a violent night on the train tracks forever shapes Barbara Parker’s life.

Barbara’s daughter, Carole Anne, is caught up in the same vicious cycle of poverty, disgusting men, and corrupt leaders that make biased decisions based on socioeconomic stereotypes. Carole Anne wants and deserves so much more.

Like The Conners, learn more about hope, second chances, and growing up in rural Appalachia. A slower and more reflective read, Outbound Train is contemporary historical and literary fiction. Amazon | Goodreads | Read More


Along With Outbound Train, head to North Carolina With These Books.


Mysteries & Thrillers Set On Trains

Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith book cover

Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith

One of the older and more famous books set on trains, don’t miss Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith. This 1950s train thriller gained popularity when Alfred Hitchcock turned the book into a movie. And yes, the movie is different and, for me, better. *Gasp.*

Guy Haines is sitting on a train hoping to divorce his cheating, pregnant wife when he meets Charles Bruno. A renowned architect, Haines wants to marry his new love. Bruno is, well, a psychopath.

When rambling Bruno suggests that they swap murders — he’ll kill Haines’s wife Miriam if Haines kills his father — Haines brushes him off. Until Miriam is found strangled to death at a fair…

The characterization in Strangers On A Train is everything. Although a bit dry and excessive at times, you can’t help but get drawn into this wild plot. Amazon | Goodreads | Read More→

Save This Train-Set Reading List For Later


Train thrillers and books set on trains Pinterest pin with book covers for The Last Train to Key West, Murder On The Orient Express, The Girl On The Train, and Orphan Train
Is your TBR pile overflowing? Save these books set on trains for later to find your next great adventure.

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger book cover

Confessions On The 7:45 by Lisa Unger

Imagine meeting a stranger on a train who could forever change your life. You think that sharing a nip is an innocent gesture until someone ends up missing…or dead. Clearly, Selena never read Highsmith.

If you are looking for a surface-level train thriller and fast-paced mystery, Unger’s Confessions On The 7:45 will have you questioning who is running this money-making scheme and why.

Reading much like Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane and inspired by Highsmith’s Strangers On A Train, Selena catches her husband screwing the nanny and confesses to a random commuter. With the nanny now missing, who is responsible?

Something more sinister is at play, and in the end, you’ll doubt your own ethics. Personally, I loved the conclusion even though the story started a bit blasé. Amazon | Goodreads | Read More

Violet by S.J.I Holliday book cover

Violet by S.J.I Holliday

Recommended by an Uncorked Reader, Violet is a train thriller and mystery set on the Trans-Siberian Express. On my TBR list, not only does Violet sound like a great destination armchair adventure, but you just know never to talk to strangers

Carrie decides to take her around-the-world train trip even though her best friend can no longer come with her. When she meets Violet at the Beijing Hotel, Carrie takes an impulsive leap of faith and decides to offer her the extra ticket.

The friendship becomes quickly tainted with manipulation. Someone has something to hide. Reviewers depict the story as bizarre and intense. I’m all in. Amazon | Goodreads

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins book cover

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

For psychological train thrillers, you cannot go wrong with Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train, especially if you champion Gone Girl. Although I don’t always buy into the hype of these suspense novels, I’d put Hawkins a few notches above Unger.

Rachel watches ‘Jess and Jason’ from her daily commuter train. In her imagination, she gives them the perfect lives that she craves. When she witnesses something that disturbs her happy narrative, Rachel decides to get involved.

A recovering alcoholic, Rachel suddenly wakes up covered in blood and is now part of a police investigation. Her ‘Jess’ is missing. The Girl On The Train is also a movie. Amazon | Goodreads

Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie book cover with steam engine train on tracks

Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

A classic and one of my favorite Christie’s, Murder On The Orient Express isn’t one of the scariest books set on trains but the title will leave you questioning everyone and their intentions.

Samual Ratchett is found stabbed to death in his cabin on The Orient Express. The killer is still on the train, and no one is safe. Of course, they are all trapped.

Can Detective Hercule Poirot solve the mystery before it’s too late? The newer movie is equally enjoyable.  Amazon | Goodreads


If you love chilling books, we have just the Beach Books Reading List for you…


Romance Train-Set Books

Field Notes On Love by Jennifer E. Smith book cover

Field Notes On Love by Jennifer E. Smith

For sweet LGBTQ+ YA books set on trains, meet Mae and Hugo. Mae is an aspiring NY filmmaker that didn’t get into the college she wants. As her now ex-boyfriend notes, she doesn’t show enough of herself in her films.

Then there’s Hugo from England. Recently dumped, Hugo is in need of another M. Campbell to take his ex-girlfriend’s train ticket.

Can the two teens remain casual friends on this cross-country train trip? The audiobook version had me in stitches with some of the cute conversations with their families. Amazon | Goodreads

A Night on the Orient Express by Veronica Henry book cover

A Night On The Orient Express by Veronica Henry

Another train-based book recommended to me by our readers, hop on the train from London to Venice. Find multiple character’s stories filled with tragedy, love, and family that all converge on the train

In the backdrop and behind one of the characters, readers also follow a 50-year-old love story. If you enjoy people-watching, I’m told this one is for you. Amazon | Goodreads


Head to Italy With These Dreamy Books.


Best Books Set On Train Pinterest Pin with book covers for Violet, The Last Train to Key West, A Night on the Orient Express, and Field Notes on Love.
Don’t forget to create your “Books to inspire wanderlust” board on Pinterest & save this book list.

Books Set On Trains That Our Community Is Reading

For one of our Uncorked Reading Challenge themes, these are some of the books set on trains (and books with trains) that our Uncorked Readers read and enjoyed. To see more, join the TUL Facebook Group.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern book cover
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Hop on a train that transports the traveling night circus as two young magicians compete against each other.
The White Cascade by Gary Krist -Nonfiction train book about the 1910 avalanche in the Cascade Mountains.
The Last Train by Michael Pronko book cover
The Last Train by Michael Pronko – Indie published detective series set in Tokyo, Japan.
Night Train To Lisbon by Emily Grayson book cover
Night Train To Lisbon by Emily Grayson – Set in the 1930s before WW2, a sheltered CT woman falls in love with a British scientist in Lisbon. He has secrets, though.
4 50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie book cover
4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie – Elspeth McGillicuddy witnesses a man harming a woman from the train window.
Murder On The Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn book cover
Murder On The Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn – It’s 1923 and Daisy Dalrymple is heading to Scotland when she becomes surrounded by a family feud and murder.
Mrs. Queen Takes The Train by William Kuhn book cover
Mrs. Queen Takes The Train by William Kuhn – The Queen decides to take a public train to Edinburgh. Her couriers must retrieve her before there is a national incident.
The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux book cover
The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux – In 1973, Paul Theroux takes a four-month train ride from the UK through Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
Snowpiercer The Escape by Jacques Lob book cover
Snowpiercer The Escape by Jacques Lob – A post-apocalyptic graphic novel series with a train that travels around the world.
The Sleeper by Emily Barr book cover
The Sleeper by Emily Barr – A psychological thriller where a young woman having an affair on the sleeper train to London suddenly disappears.
The National Dream by Pierre Berton book cover
The National Dream by Pierre Berton – Canadian nonfiction about the fight for the railway in the 1870s.
The Woman On The Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford book cover
The Woman On The Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford – Agatha Christie hops on the Orient Express in disguise. This Middle East-bound train is full of secrets.

Which books set on trains have you read?

What’s your favorite book set on a train? What are the common themes that you’ve noticed across these books? Why do you think many of the novels set on trains are historical fiction or thrillers? Let us know in the comments!

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