Book Review: DANGER AT DEAD MAN’S PASS by M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in red on navy next to four kids on top of a train
Genre: Mystery
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: yes - fourth book
Illustrator: Elisa Paganelli


Book cover for DANGER AT DEAD MAN'S PASS: title in gold on a snowy, night train

A mysterious letter from an old friend asks Hal and Uncle Nat to help investigate a spooky supernatural mystery. Legend has it the Kratzensteins, a family of rich and powerful railway tycoons, are cursed, but there is no such thing as a curse, is there . . .?

Hal and Nat take the night train to Berlin and go undercover. From a creaking old house at the foot of the Harz mountains, they take the Kratzenstein family’s funeral train to the peak of the Brocken Mountain. Can Hal uncover the secrets of the Brocken railway and the family curse before disaster strikes?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I am so glad I picked up the first book on a whim early in 2020, because I have devoured every entry so far. The mysteries are so twisty, and the whole new cast feels realistic every time because of the location (looking at you, Death in Paradise!) I have read each entry within hours of getting it, swept away by all the clues and red-herrings, and the general adventure of being aboard a train.

This entry feels quite different to the others (in a good way) because it doesn’t take place solely on trains. There are still a lot of trains, but once Hal and Nat get to the castle, a lot of time is spent in it, moving around the old house and grounds. It was a really nice shakeup from the other books, and exploited the setting brilliantly (cold, dark, snowy mountains that are supposedly haunted!) Plus, I love a good old castle.

It also feels different because Hal and Nat go in knowing there’s a mystery to solve, rather than stumbling across it. And, because they’re a bit famous now, they have to go in disguise. It adds another layer of danger to the book because they also had to remember their cover while investigating – and Nat has secrets that he’s not telling Hal.

Nat makes a point very early on about how, as they’re going undercover, Hal can’t draw the way he usually does with all his supplies – in case it gives him away. Instead, he only has a biro. The attention to detail over this is brilliant, because there is no difference in line strength in the drawings – it is done with cross-hatchings rather than the style of the earlier books which mimics different pencil strengths. That sort of detail just shows the care put into these books. Illustrators don’t get enough credit, but they really should.

The one comment I have is that Harrison spends quite a few opening chapters asking questions to make a family tree, and then the family tree drawing never appears. It would have been quite useful to have it, as I was struggling to figure out how one branch of the family were related, but that was a minor thing.

There is at least one more book, coming early next year, and we travel to Australia!

Read my reviews of other books by M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman:

Adventures on Trains (this series):

Written by M. G. Leonard:



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