Night Train (novel)

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Night Train
First edition
Author Martin Amis
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Detective fiction, parody
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date
2 October 1997
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 175
ISBN 0-224-05018-4
OCLC 37778888
823/.914 21
LC Class PR6051.M5 N5 1997

Night Train (1997) is a detective novel by author Martin Amis, named after the song "Night Train," which features twice in the novel. The night train that Hoolihan hears from her flat is also used as a metaphor for suicide.

Plot summary[edit]

This book is told from the perspective of Detective Mike Hoolihan, a female detective who is charged with the task of finding the motivation for Jennifer Rockwell's suicide. Jennifer, a beautiful astrophysicist with a seemingly perfect life seems to have had no reason to kill herself. Thematically this book touches on cosmology and chaos theory, and their relation to the human condition as a possible motive for suicide.

Hoolihan is a recovering alcoholic and former homicide detective who lives with an obese man named Tobe in an unnamed American city. She reveals that she had been sexually abused as a child, revolted violently against the abuse at the age of ten, and then pursued a number of affairs with abusive or unworthy men.

Despite her disadvantages, she becomes a successful detective before her illness forces her to accept less demanding work seizing assets from criminals. Her experiences lead her to examine gender roles in police work.

Her former boss, mentor, and personal friend 'Colonel' Tom Rockwell asks that she investigate the apparent suicide of his daughter Jennifer who, as a beautiful, intelligent, cheerful, popular woman had no obvious reason for taking her own life. Rockwell suspects Jennifer's lover Trader Faulkner, a distinguished academic, of murdering Jennifer. Hoolihan attempts to pressure Faulkner into confessing, but fails. She discovers that Jennifer was taking lithium, met a philandering salesman in the bar of a local hotel, and made uncharacteristic mistakes at work shortly before her death. Hoolihan then deduces that these factors are merely 'blinds' - or clues - deliberately planted by Jennifer for the benefit of an investigation at the behest of her father. Hoolihan concludes that these blinds are meant either to provide the less astute investigator with a sense of 'closure', or to indicate a greater bleakness, or nihilism. After breaking down while attempting to communicate her findings to Rockwell - who immediately expresses his concern - Hoolihan heads for the nearest bar, knowing that the alcohol will kill her.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bentley, Nick (2014). Martin Amis (Writers and Their Work). Northcote House Publishing Ltd. 
  • Diedrick, James (2004). Understanding Martin Amis (Understanding Contemporary British Literature). University of South Carolina Press. 
  • Finney, Brian (2013). Martin Amis (Routledge Guides to Literature). Routledge. 
  • Keulks, Gavin (2003). Father and Son: Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, and the British Novel Since 1950. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0299192105. 
  • Keulks, Gavin (ed) (2006). Martin Amis: Postmodernism and Beyond. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0230008304. 
  • Tredall, Nicolas (2000). The Fiction of Martin Amis (Readers' Guides to Essential Criticism). Palgrave Macmillan. 
  • Bradford, Richard (November 2012). Martin Amis: The Biography. Pegasus. ISBN 978-1605983851.