I am not actually a huge Lovecraft fan, but the concept of Lovecraft-inspired stories set around a historic train piqued my interest. The collection happily surprised me as being interesting, unique, and all around enjoyable for someone with a passing knowledge of Eldritch lore and elder gods but not necessarily a guru. For those readers more experienced with Lovecraft, there may be hidden clues or signs in some of the tales, but anyone who likes darker reading will enjoy the storytelling.
All sixteen of the stories in Madness on the Orient Express intrigued and interested me, but my personal favorites were "La Musique de l’Ennui" by Kenneth Hite, "The God Beneath the Mountain" by James L. Sutter, and "Daddy, Daddy" by Penelope Love. Given that I have loved The Phantom of the Opera for years, although I am not nearly as obsessed as the protagonist in "La Musique de l’Ennui," it was no shock that I enjoyed the blending of the story with Lovecraftian elements. While I wouldn’t spend that much money on a Phantom train tour, part of me was envious of the guests participating in the special Orient Express event even though it ended, well, with a closer brush with insanity than the protagonist anticipated. "The God Beneath the Mountain" presented a more classically Lovecraftian story of humans touching upon dark evil via science and progress, but with an added twist of forbidden love (for the time period) and megalomaniacal stylings. The main character has fled his home after a loosely touched upon scandal and finds much more than he imagined as the doctor for the Simplon Tunnel build site. I found the tale alternately sweet, scary, and downright disturbing, plus all the more frightening by including a real place. My third pick, "Daddy, Daddy," went on another different direction by sharing the dark story of an abused child and her attempt to free herself from her father forever. The price for eternal freedom turned out to be quite high, but I’d like to believe the protagonist found it worthwhile after her creepy journey.
Madness on the Orient Express caters to a certain type of dark reading that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those of us who enjoy dabbling in dangerous, hidden mysteries, it hits all the right notes. Each story in the collection is expertly crafted, and while each has its own flavor, they work wonderfully as a blended whole. If you have any Lovecraft fans in your life, you need to get this for them! It will not disappoint.
5 Skillfully Avoided References to Cthulhu out of 5