Wednesday 22 November 2023

Murder on the Christmas Express BLOG TOUR #MurderontheChristmasExpress @ak_benedict @simonschusterUK @RandomTTours #BookExtract


Eighteen passengers. Seven stops. One killer.

In the early hours of Christmas Eve, the sleeper train to the Highlands is derailed, along with the festive plans of its travellers. With the train stuck in snow in the middle of nowhere, a killer stalks its carriages, picking off passengers one by one. Those who sleep on the sleeper train may never wake again.

Can former Met detective Roz Parker find the killer before they kill again?

All aboard for . . . Murder on the Christmas Express.

Murder on the Christmas Express by A K Benedict was published in paperback on 28 September 2023 by Simon and Schuster.  As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from Murder on the Christmas Express by A K Benedict 


December 24th

Meg wouldn’t let him see her cry, not this time. She ran out of the club car, aware of the phone cameras turning her way. Her eyes stung as she stumbled down the corridor to their cabin. The train seemed to whisper to her: he doesn’t love you, he doesn’t love you, he never loved you. 

Fumbling for the key card, she checked behind her. Grant wasn’t following. Part of her wanted him to. Wanted the fight that felt like love, and the peace that followed when he’d sobered up and begged forgiveness. The rest of her knew what could happen. What had so nearly happened before. And she wasn’t going to die tonight. 

Inside their club double, she locked the door and curled into a foetal position on the bed. She held a pillow to her chest and rocked. Her heart felt pulled apart like a Christmas cracker, and all that was left was a scrunched-up joke. 

She thought about going to see that woman, Roz – the ex-detective who looked like Kate Bush. Maybe she could help. 

Then her phone buzzed. 
And again. She looked at the screen – she’d been tagged in a video and the notifications were stacking up in their hundreds. Both the train and her heart seemed to fly faster. The video had been posted a minute ago. Someone had filmed the whole argument between her and Grant, from the whispered accusations and shouted denials to Meg running out. 

She watched the comments appear in real time. As usual, she couldn’t stop herself reading them:

Lindyhop2010: I’m TeamMeg! 
Meg4Eva: ♥♥ ☹
InkedAndPrimped: He’s fit - she should suck it up. I would! 😉
DinosaurSenior: LEAVE HIM, MEG! Come and sit on my face instead!
TaintedProphets: Don’t trust him, take it from me
Nastasha_Roberts: She’s a basket case. She’s on something. You can always tell.
ICD3adp30pl3: Fake news. All staged. They’re both beards and the rest are crisis actors.

Meg checked Twitter – #megrantlovespat was trending. She could feel her rosacea flaring to match her humiliation. She knew what Grant would say: ‘Turn it into money.’ He was like Rumpelstiltskin – he could spin anything into gold, especially if it made her feel pale and brittle. By tomorrow night, he would have sold the story to one of the weeklies and she’d be on the cover with him, smile never touching her filtered eyes. 

Not this time. Not after what he’d whispered to her when she was on that table. People would ask why she hadn’t spoken up before, or left him. Those people were lucky, because they’d never been abused. They didn’t understand that, after being starved of love, you longed for stale breadcrumbs. 
It didn’t matter what anyone said, not anymore. She would reclaim her story. Tell the truth. All of it. Everything she had been hiding and saving up in video clips for so long. Now was the time to release them, and herself. And, maybe, she’d speak up for the many people who couldn’t. Start her own hashtag: #Megtoo. 

Meg got out her compact and regarded herself in the mirror. Her dark pupils reflected her face back. Kajal and mascara ran down her cheeks, making tracks in her foundation. She got out the latest batch of promo samples she’d been sent to test and repaired the worst smears of make-up, covering the red patches that showed through the foundation. If she was going to ugly-cry on camera, she was going to look pretty doing it. 

Ring light on, filter applied, Meg typed into her phone the brands that would flash over the beginning of her live stream on Instagram. She had secrets to spill and today was the day. A Christmas present for her followers and a piece of coal from Krampus for Grant. It wouldn’t hurt her career, either – the clock never stopped on TikTok and this would get back some of the attention she’d lost. She had to stay calm, be authentic while promoting brands. Her mentions would explode and her wavering sponsors would be secured. 

She took as deep a breath as her lungs would allow. Picked up a can she was being paid to sell, placed it to her immaculate mouth, then pressed the button marked Live Stream:
Lowering the can, she smacked her lips as if she’d tasted something delicious. ‘Hi everyone. Told you I’d be back later. Things haven’t gone to plan. As you’ve probably already seen, Grant and I have been arguing again. I’d never normally let you see me like this.’ She pointed to her eyes, goth-smudged and swollen. The flurry of people watching was already turning into a blizzard. This was her moment. ‘I’d normally fix myself up and carry on. But not today. Today I’m going to tell you the secrets that lie behind my relationship with Grant.’ 

This would be enough to hook them for now. Time for more promo. She talked on, about being resilient, just like the make-up that remained on her face despite the tears. 
And then when she felt she might be losing her audience: ‘So this is what I have to tell you. I’ve already started, in snippets I’ve got secretly recorded, but now feels the right time to tell the truth. Behind the make-up and photo shoots, the stories in Hello! and other places, lies—’ 
The train juddered, jerking to one side. Brakes screamed. The bathroom door flew open and slammed against the wall. The carriage tipped slightly, veering. Meg crawled into the corner of the bed, holding tight to her phone. ‘What’s happening?’ she asked it, as if anyone watching would know or could help. 

The train screeched to a stop. 

The decorations she’d made and put up earlier swung and fell over her. Designer bags shunted around the cabin. Her jewellery box fell from the sink, along with a new eyeshadow palette which scattered pigment in shades of heather and smoke across the floor. The compact mirror slid off the bed, cracking as it hit the wall. 

Meg stayed where she was, waiting for the world to settle. Down the corridor, she could hear screams and shouting from nearby cabins. 

In a few moments: stillness. She pulled down the window, letting in a blast of air. Looking down the curved track, she couldn’t see what had happened, only the thick, winter dark. Other windows were opening. 

‘Well, I bet you weren’t expecting a train crash,’ she said, turning back to the camera on her phone. ‘And neither was I, though my life has been one for a long time. But Grant will be here soon, so I need to tell you. I need to speak.’ She took a deep breath and looked directly at the camera, knowing her eyes would be wide, her pupils huge. ‘He was amazing at first. The ultimate romantic. My therapist called it love-bombing. But soon he—’ 

Meg stopped. The door was opening. A foot was in the door. Grant’s. She felt relieved at first, saying, ‘Grant, oh it’s—’ Then he walked in, closed the door. He had that look on his face. ‘Please, don’t—’ But the words turned to coal dust in her throat. His hands reached for Meg’s neck. She stepped back, fumbling her phone and turning off the recording by mistake. 

She dropped it on the floor and his heel smashed down on the screen. She raised her hands to her face. She didn’t need to be psychic to know. This was the night she died. 

Alexandra (AK) Benedict is a best-selling, award-winning writer of short stories, novels and scripts. 
Educated at Cambridge, Sussex, and Clown School, Alexandra has been a indie-rock singer, an actor, RLF Fellow, and a composer for film and TV as well as teaching and running the prestigious MA in Crime Thrillers at City University. 
She is now a full-time writer and creative coach.

Her most recent novel, under the name Alexandra Benedict, was the bestselling The Christmas Murder Game. 
She is currently writing another Christmas mystery, a high-concept thriller and TV scripts. 
Alexandra lives on the south coast of England with writer, Guy Adams, their daughter, Verity, and dog, Dame Margaret Rutherford.

X / Twitter @ak_benedict

Instagram @a.k.benedict

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