Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early (Vintage Toy Shop Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, good mystery, fun
Cons: All cons run over by a toy train
The Bottom Line:
Deadly toy expo
Case filled with many questions
Strong characters, fun

A Bully Takes a Plunge

Just in case you haven’t figured it out by now, I never really grew up, so you can imagine how quickly I jumped at a cozy mystery set around a nostalgic toy shop.  The first in the series was great, and I’m happy to report that Murder on the Toy Town Express is even better.

The Toy and Train Expo has come to East Aurora, New York, and Liz McCall and her father, Hank, have set up a booth for their vintage toy shop, Well Played.  Liz’s isn’t super happy when they find their location and discover they are located next to Craig McFadden’s comic book booth.  Craig and Liz had gone to school together, and Craig has bullied her.  She has done her best to avoid him as an adult, but the little bit they have interacted has shown that he hasn’t matured a whole lot.

However, for this weekend, he’s buzzing about some big announcement he plans to make that morning.  And he’s wearing a superhero costume that no one seems to recognize.  Before he can make his announcement, he climbs up the scaffolding in the convention center and then plunges into the middle of an elaborate train display.  No one else was up there, but something feels off to Hank, the retired chief of police.  It appears that Liz’s family and friends are potentially connected in some way to the case, so she begins to investigate.  But can she make sense of all that is happening?

There really is a lot going on here to keep us entertained.  There’s always some plot point or twist, and the various elements that come into this book are fun.  We also get a strong sub-plot.  The climax is well done and wraps everything up logically.

The characters are great.  Liz and Hank are the ones we see the most, but the rest of the supporting players are also strong.  We are introduced to quite a few new characters here, and I really liked them.  We don’t get to know all of them super well, but that’s just a function of how much page time they get.

The first book of the series set up a romantic triangle.  There are significant developments in it, here, and they also played into developing Liz better, which I loved.  While the love triangle has gotten a bad name in cozy mysteries, this is one series where I think it is being handled well.

I can’t leave out the humor.  Hank loves puns, as you might have guessed from the name of the toy store.  Since I love puns, the scenes where he uses some always made me laugh.  There are some other funny events in this novel, and I laughed out loud several times while I was reading.

Murder on the Toy Town Express is just plain fun, with a good mystery and characters you quickly come to love.  Don’t hesitate to visit Liz today.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. Every once in awhile I see a love triangle that works - Julie Mulhern's Country Club murders comes to mind - so I'm glad to see that this is one of them. I love the idea of the toy shop and this mystery sounds really good. I've enjoyed reviews of the previous books and have added this series to my TBR though of course I need to get around to actually reading them!

  2. Book 1 was great, LOVED it!