Trains are not the most common or practical means of travel, but they are an interesting setting for horror: Characters are effectively trapped on the train between stops, they can meet interesting travelers (and dangerous creatures), and there are the possibilities of the mystery and intrigue of foreign cities when the train is the famous Orient Express.  Madness on the Orient Express, edited and introduced by James Lowder, is a successful Kickstarter Chaosium, Inc. collection of sixteen Lovecraftian tales which all involve, in some manner, the Orient Express.

While it would be simple for all the authors to have the protagonists run into creatures and cultists on the Orient Express, there are quite a few different takes for this location.  "The God beneath the Mountain" is concerned with creating routes for the Orient Express.  A few stories cast the Orient Express as the simple conveyance to a destination, such as "There Is a Book" and "La Musique de L'ennui" (which is more concerned with The Phantom of the Opera than the famous train).  Harry Houdini is the protagonist of "Bound for Home," while competitive cooks face a grisly turn in "A Great and Terrible Hunger."  And the Orient Express has a faded grandeur while taking a tired woman on a journey in "Daddy, Daddy."

Then there are the stories where the Orient Express is key.  In "Engineered" the train tracks -- of this and all trains -- have an ominous hidden pattern.  A battle between cosmic factions is played out on the train in "Inscrutable."  The past and present come together oddly in "A Finger's Worth of Coal," and the collection ends with the surreal "Stained Windows."

I never ran or played a Call of Cthulhu adventure set on a train, but now I'm considering it.  The stories here are mostly of pretty good quality, and the variety they bring into the same famous setting keeps the book quite diverse.  Madness on the Orient Express is a nice, horrific series of trips on the world's most famous train.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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