Book Review: SABOTAGE ON THE SOLAR EXPRESS by M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in white on peach with birds, a kan
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: yes - book 5



Book cover for SABOTAGE ON THE SOLAR EXPRESS: title in silver on a red train barrelling through an orangey desert

Billionaire train enthusiast August Reza has invited Harrison Beck and Uncle Nat to travel on the maiden voyage of the winning design of his Reza’s Rocket competition. Australian child genius Boaz won with his hybrid locomotive, driven by hydrogen fuel cells and solar power.

But during the journey from Alice Springs to Darwin, someone onboard sabotages the train, hurtling passengers into a heart-stopping thrill-ride across the Australian Outback. Can Hal find the saboteur and stop the runaway train before disaster strikes?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


The latest Adventures on Trains book! As you might be able to guess, I dropped my current read (and all evening plans) to consume this when I got my hands on it.

SABOTAGE ON THE SOLAR EXPRESS is the most thriller-leaning of the books so far. It’s certainly got a mystery (who sabotaged the train and why?) but the focus of the action is stopping the train from causing damage. There’s a much more present ticking clock because of it. Before, the stakes were that the culprit would get away with the crime, but here it’s literally life or death.

As well as making for a super-addictive read, it also helps to keep these books feeling new and fresh. The authors are not letting these books fall into a pattern, but finding new ways for Hal to have adventures on trains (Uncle Nat is clearly a very good at persuading people given Hal’s parents are still letting him go on train holidays with his uncle!)

Like with DANGER AT DEAD MAN’S PASS, we get to spend more time with characters we’ve seen previously. However, this time it’s far more major characters coming back – August Reza, his daughter Marianne (the girl kidnapped in KIDNAP ON THE CALIFORNIA COMET), and bodyguard Woody.

I really liked spending time with them, particularly with Marianne. KIDNAP makes you think of her a certain way, and this book changes your opinion. She’s clearly learnt since then (and because of that book.) The spark of her is still the same, but it was nice to see that change.

There are new characters, of course. The best is Boaz. A science-whizz-kid is always a win in my book (I am a Physicist, after all!) But a whizz-kid with a green invention and the ability to invent from limited supplies under stress?! (Big DO NOT DO WHAT THEY DO IN THE BOOK warnings here!)

I raved about the new art style in DANGER, how it reflected the book, and it happens here too! It’s a more comic-like style, with boxes and insets and comments. Hal remembers Marianne likes creating comics, so decides to give it a try. It’s just another way these books are keeping that fresh, exciting feel.

I’m so excited for the next book, THE ARCTIC RAILWAY ASSASSIN, coming in October!

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

By Both:

Adventures on Trains (this series):

By M. G. Leonard:


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