Last weekend I ventured into the Ho-Ho-Ho Holiday Read-a-thon, thinking that over six days I could surely read one short, fluffy Christmas book: The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. Turns out, I couldn't do it. Two reasons: 1) I got busy with work-related obligations (the bane of the constant reader), and I didn't read much of anything, let alone a book for the Read-a-thon. BUT more fatally, 2) I didn't like this book. This is not going to be much of a review, I suppose, because I simply could not finish this book. I gave it the old 100-page college try, though. Lately I've tackled a few books that didn't end up being very readable, so my unofficial rule for these kinds of books is to read to page 100 and then give up if the book is not working out. I know some readers quit after page 50, so I think you'll agree I gave this book an honest effort.
I have never read David Baldacci before, and my sense is that the rest of his writing is quite unlike this book -- a casual glance at his page on Amazon reveals a long list of popular thrillers. So that might very well explain the let-down of this book. It is the story of Tom Langdon, a journalist who decides to travel cross-country by train for Christmas, on his way to meet his girlfriend in Los Angeles. He meets a sizeable cast of unique and zany characters on the train (including his ex-girlfriend, who just conveniently happens to be on the train as well), and then I don't know what happens next because I got fed up.
This book was just too "cutesy" for me. Every character is ready to spout witty quips as they wander around the train being weird and lovable, and the whole lot of them just seem very cardboardy and contrived. Plus there's the fact that, for the first 100 pages, nothing much happens. You get all kinds of backstory on Tom, but none of it is terribly captivating. Just before page 100, an unknown thief breaks into several of the characters' rooms and steals selected items from them, but even this was not enough to interest me and keep me reading further. I guess if I was not going to be able to finish the Read-a-thon anyway, it was best to be reading a book that I didn't have to waste much time on, but I'm still a little disappointed at how it turned out. I can't recommend The Christmas Train for anyone, but I will definitely try the Ho-Ho-Ho Read-a-thon again next year!