A lighthearted read evoking a simpler time, the story centers around a disillusioned journalist and his chance to complete what his father had never been able to accomplish. Tom Langdon had known for years that there was a familial connection to Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain but he was not aware that his father had a last wish for Tom to complete a story that Twain had never finished. A story of taking a train across the country at Christmastime. Twain supposedly took many notes on the trip, but had never made a story from them.
As it turns out, Tom is planning to travel across the country to be in California by Christmas to be with his girl-friend, and will be traveling by train because he is not allowed to travel by air due to a volcanic temper tantrum in the airport after a long, tiring flight and a probing search at the security gate. Thus he decides to follow through on his father’s deathbed wish. He decides he will take his own notes and compile them into a story. Traveling by rail he hears the stories of many people who have made the trip many times before. He also meets a young couple wanting to get married on the train, an eccentric old woman who seems to know everyone very well, a film director, and a person from his own past. At one point on the trip there also appears to be a bit of a thief, and this story runs along in the background.
David Baldacci has created a little rolling world peopled with interesting and varied characters. Then everything comes to a screeching halt as they become trapped in this little world with apparently no way out. I really enjoyed this book, and particularly the subtexts and direction changes, red herrings and subterfuge with a dash or humour. This was a good Christmas story and the ending took me completely by surprise; I’m sure to be reading it again next Christmas. Surprisingly, this is the first Baldacci book I have read and I know this is not his usual fare, but of course I will be reading some of his other books in 2009! I definitely recommend it.