Sabotage on the Solar Express

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Pub Date 17 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 4 Feb 2022

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'A thrilling and hugely entertaining adventure story' – David Walliams on The Highland Falcon Thief

Ride into danger with Hal and Uncle Nat on the fifth breathtaking Adventures on Trains Mystery, Sabotage on the Solar Express, from bestselling award-winners M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman. Perfect for readers of 8 to 12 and brilliantly illustrated in black and white throughout by Elisa Paganelli.

Billionaire train enthusiast August Reza has invited Harrison Beck and Uncle Nat on the maiden voyage of the Solar Express – the winning design of his Reza’s Rocket competition. But during the journey, they discover the train has been sabotaged, hurtling passengers into a heart-stopping, action-packed, thrill ride across the Australian Outback. Can Hal find the saboteur and stop the runaway train before disaster strikes?

Sabotage on the Solar Express can be read as a stand-alone novel, or enjoyed as part of the Adventures on Trains series. Join Hal and Uncle Nat on more stops in this thrilling series with: The Highland Falcon Thief, Kidnap on the California Comet, Murder on the Safari Star, and Danger at Dead Man's Pass.

Praise for the Series:

'Like Murder on the Orient Express but better!' – Frank Cottrell-Boyce on The Highland Falcon Thief

'A first class choo-choo-dunnit!' – David Solomons on Kidnap on the California Comet

'A high-speed train journey worth catching . . .The best yet' – The Times on Murder on the Safari Star

'This series just gets better and better' – Maz Evans on Danger at Dead Man's Pass

'A thrilling and hugely entertaining adventure story' – David Walliams on The Highland Falcon Thief

Ride into danger with Hal and Uncle Nat on the fifth breathtaking Adventures on Trains Mystery, ...

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ISBN 9781529072655
PRICE £7.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

Another corker from the wonderful pairing that is MGLeonard and Sam Sedgman. This truly is a series that just keeps on giving, each book similar to the last yet vastly different. In all my years of reading aloud books I have yet to meet a series that engages children as much as this series. Wonderfully written with thought provoking, diverse characters this if try another story that will have kids on the edge of their seats. Absolutely brilliant.

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Sabotage on the Solar Express is the latest book in this phenomenal Adventures on Trains series.

If you’re not already familiar with the books, you can absolutely read them out of order and behind here but you’ll also absolutely want to read more once you’ve started, so I recommend going back to where it all began with Hal’s first journey alongside his Uncle Nat on The Highland Falcon Thief!

If you are already acquainted with Hal and Nat, you’ll know what a brilliant team they are; between their sleuthing and Nat’s responsibility for Hal, it’s a very carefully balanced model of a caring, trusting, respectful adult-child relationship which nevertheless retains a sense of fun.

And that is something which is once again epitomised here. Marianne’s shock at Hal openly bringing Nat in on their ‘secret’ investigation was telling and a memorable moment in the book for me.

And yes, that is Marianne Reza, daughter of August Reza, tech giant and billionaire who we first met in Kidnap on the California Comet. The pair (and long-suffering bodyguard Woody) return here as August announces the winner of his Reza’s Rocket competition to design a train for the future.

It’s brilliant to see these characters reunited and adjusting to the different dynamics they now have following their first journey together. Marianne is a character who’s really grown, and who continues to do so in this story, and who is increasingly likeable – something which surprises Hal as he’s begrudgingly drawn into working with her to solve the mystery and save the day.

I loved seeing them grow closer during this adventure, and we finish the book with Marianne (and colleague Michelle) feeling like really strong female role models in business, leadership and STEM which is great to see too.

As ever, surrounding them is yet another strong cast with interesting, diverse and believable characters – some likeable, some less so, all with a degree of suspicion hovering over them!

Like always, the fact that they’re all contained in one place heightens our sense of mistrust and doubt, but there’s definitely an added level of danger and peril in this book compared to previous cases. The excitement, adrenaline and action are all pumped up to the max, with a large dose of 80s/90s Hollywood action thrown into the mix with heart-pounding results.

With a sabotaged, unstoppable train; double-crossing and dangerous desertions; a ticking clock and a race against time; daring and dramatic escapes; highly improbable and unlikely homemade devices; big budget rescue attempts and electrifying explosions, this has everything to keep you on the edge of your seat (and can’t fail to raise a smile with adult readers familiar with this sort of movie!)

Oh, and those chapter headers 👌👌 I always keep an eye on the chapters in these books as there’s often a sneaky pun or reference in there. Sabotage takes it to the next level. Spot on.

The other thing I really liked here was the way they’ve played with Hal’s drawing style. He mentions himself taking inspiration from Marianne’s love of drawing comic books and so his (Elisa Paganelli’s) drawings this time incorporate a comic strip vibe, whilst still being recognisably Hal’s (Elisa’s).

And this illustrates nicely (pun totally intended) something which the whole book has done so well; this is now the fifth book in the series, by which point it’d be easy to worry that they’ll become stale or formulaic, predictable or samey, but this formidable trio have once again taken the premise somewhere totally new and changed it up enough to keep it fresh, whilst retaining its heart and feel.

There is, as would be expected, a strong environmental theme here too which provides food for thought both in the immediate and long term sense. I know I learned something reading it, and seeing Boaz’s passion and talent for environmental solutions was inspiring, so it’s especially exciting to think of the spark this could have in the hands of the next generation.

In short (yeah, I know…), MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman have somehow managed to expertly create their very own environmental action movie, turn it into a book which retains all the thrills, with illustrations that fit it perfectly, and a whodunit thrown in for good measure. Genius. I cannot wait to see where they go next!

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Once more, Hal and Uncle Nat are off on an adventure on a train and this time it is to the Australian Outback! August Reza, the billionaire they have previously adventured with, has invited the train loving pair onto the first journey of the Solar Express. However, it quickly turns out that the train has been sabotaged and the passengers are in grave danger! Can Hal, working with Marianne Reza, work out who the saboteur is before it is too late?

I absolutely love the Adventures on Trains series by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman (you can find my reviews of two previous books here and here) and this is a thrilling addition to the series. Whilst experiencing the maiden journey of the innovative solar express, something (as usual for Hal and Nat) goes wrong! The reader is quickly thrown into a world of saboteurs and a mystery to be unveiled at breakneck pace. I personally love the quick pace of these books as I enjoy turning page after page after page in a desperate attempt to work out what on earth is going on, hopefully just before Hal can get there! As per usual…I didn’t work it out, but despite that I absolutely adored Sabotage on the Solar Express and any mystery fan will too.

Hal and Uncle Nat are joined by a crew of interesting characters and Marianne Reza is among my favourite. She steps up to the plate as a fiercely determined leader and shows off her strength of character in the most dangerous of times – what a role model! Boaz, the inventor of the hydrogen powered Solar Express, is a great new addition and I loved that his invention allowed for lots of science discussion throughout the novel. This was done in a fantastically accessible way that I hope will have lots of kids yearning to learn more.

I’ve said it before, but I think this book might be the best yet! Kangaroos, renewable energy trains, genuine peril, of course it’s a 5 out of 5 stars for Sabotage on the Solar Express.

Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books and NetGalley for the e-book review copy.

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Oh, a simply wonderful caper. This series gets better and better, if that were even possible. This time, there is a plot afoot. It reminds me of the Sandra Bullock film, Speed, but on trains. And I can assure you, the book is even better than the film.

I simply cannot wait to see what comes next. I think these books can't get any better and I am proven wrong time and time again. Easy 5 stars. Id give it 6 if I could.

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This is the most chilling and nerve wracking ‘Adventures on Trains’ book yet. The title says it all. There is sabotage onboard the Solar Express, which is a hydrogen powered train and has been designed as part of a competition.
Here we once again meet young detective and artist Hal (Harrison Beck) and his Uncle Nat as they go to journey on the Solar Express. Things don’t quite go as planned though. This is meant to be a pleasant holiday for Hal who always ends up finding a murder or similar.

Everything seems alright when the train starts its debut journey in Australia, but Hal and Uncle Nat soon discover that all is not well and their lives and those of the fellow passengers may be in danger.
This is a nail biting novel and great for young readers. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I know my kids and pupils will too.

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If you are looking for a middle-grade adventure to make your pulse race and time appear to stand still, then look no further than Sabotage on the Solar Express! The vivid writing style of dual authors M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman, combined with the almost graphic novel-like images by Elisa Paganelli, make this, the fourth Adventures on Trains Mystery, the most cinematic of the series so far. The clever choice of chapter titles only adds to the filmic credentials of this story.

For those who have not read any of the previous books, they centre around Harrison known as Hal, a boy blessed with fantastic observational and drawing skills and his Uncle Nat, a famous travel writer, as they embark on a series of fabulous rail journeys. You could read this book independently of the others, however characters reappear from the second book Kidnap on the California Comet and I think you would find most enjoyment if you read the entire series in order.

This outing takes the uncle and nephew partnership “down under” to the deep Mars-red landscape of the Australian Outback. They have been invited by billionaire August Reza to join the inaugural journey of the Solar Express, the locomotive which has won Reza’s competition to design an environmentally friendly train for the future.

Hal and Uncle Nat are amazed to discover that the designer of the winning locomotive is actually a 14 year old boy, Boaz, who lives with his indigenous, First Nations family on a farmstead just outside Alice Springs. On visiting him in his workshop he explains the technology that he has designed, which uses solar energy to drive his regenerative hydrogen powered fuel cells and explains how his passion for environmentalism stems from his belief in the sanctity of the land. He is guided throughout the story by the Aboriginal belief that,

“We don’t own the land. The land owns us.“

Boarding his futuristic locomotive for the journey from Alice Springs to Darwin are an entertaining cast of characters including Reza’s teenage daughter Marianne, a ruthless and ambitious politician, a shipping tycoon, a couple of competition winners, a retired locomotive driver, members of Boaz’s family, a PR executive and a film crew. Ominously, the chief engineer of the project is found to be missing shortly after the journey begins. This puts paid to Hal’s dream of an uneventful journey where he can for once just enjoy the unique landscape, sketching the harsh but beautiful desert and enjoying the experience of travelling in luxurious conditions. He soon realises that he should have taken the suspicions of Marianne seriously when she alerted him to the mysterious stranger posing as a hotel employee, who delivered a valuable model of Stephenson’s rocket to her father‘s hotel room the previous evening. From the moment that the eponymous sabotage of the computer controlled driving system is discovered, the book hurtles the reader on a thrill ride during which the dramatic attention cranks up by the chapter, leaving you clinging to the sides of your chair whilst your eyes race over the pages faster than a runaway train.

This is an absolute corker of an adventure story and once you have regained your breath and calmed your heart rate it also provides interesting themes to ponder. Obviously the environmental theme is much to the fore and I thought that looking at it through the lens of First Nations people’s beliefs was a fascinating way of providing young readers with a way to explore the issues of industrialisation and exploitation of the world’s resources. Secondly, female empowerment is beautifully highlighted here, through the characters of Marianne and Michelle. At the start of the story we are reminded of Hal’s discomfort with Marianne who he finds overbearing and some would describe as bossy. However, as the sabotage threatens disaster to her father’s plans and the billionaire tech giant begins to fall apart, his teenage daughter displays the true leadership required to deal with a crisis. Similarly, Michelle’s desire to use her physics degree to join the engineering rather than the PR side of Reza Enterprises is only taken seriously once she proves her credentials in the absence of chief engineer Francisco Silva. There are positive messages for children about trusting in your own abilities and not being swayed by the opinions of others.

I highly recommend Sabotage on the Solar Express as an independent read for anyone of 9+, as a class reader or as a bedtime story; although teachers, librarians, parents and carers should be prepared for cries of “one more chapter”!

I am most grateful to Macmillan Children’s Books and NetGalley for allowing me access to an electronic copy of this book prior to publication on 17 February 2022.

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Another exciting book in the Adventures on Trains series. This time Hal and Nathaniel are in Australia, travelling onboard a brand new train powered by hydrogen, called “The Solar Express”, but it seems that someone doesn’t want the launch to go ahead. Will Hal, Nathaniel and their new friends be able to stop the saboteur in time? Their lives might depend on it.
Great links to science, could lead to discussions on inventions and renewable energy.

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Well, I think the authors have surpassed themselves with this title. Full of action and mystery, it will have you all on the edge of your eats until the very end. They really do keep getting better and better, and there are more to come!!

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There can be few series of children’s books which create as much excitement – either with their target audience, or with adult readers – than the Adventures on Trains titles. Successfully combining complex whodunnits with the romance of the ever-popular mode of transport, it hardly seems any time at all since I read the first story, on the recommendation of a very dear friend of mine who spoke very highly of it.

And yet, here we are now on Book 5 which – incredibly – again surpassed my expectations and again is a totally different read from the stories preceding it. Focussing this time on the wicked and inexplicable sabotage of the maiden journey of a new and environmentally friendlier form of travel, we find our young hero Hal and his Uncle Nat at the heart of the action and in the greatest peril.

All initially appears well with our old friends when we first meet them, newly arrived in Australia and having the time of their lives now that they have recovered from their jetlag. Travelling across the vast country to join the Solar Express, Hal recollects his first meeting with billionaire August Reza and his daughter, Marianne, and wonders whether or not she will be part of the party onboard. Before embarking though, Hal’s query is answered when he reacquaints himself with Marianne, who tells him about a mysterious and very generous gift her father has received only to have her concerns dismissed by an uninterested Hal.

Something of enormous interest to him though is the design of the new train, with its innovative and green power system, and Hal is extremely excited to meet its inventor and ask questions ahead of the trip. Returning to their hotel afterwards, Hal and Marianne watch a journalist and cameraman setting up to cover the following day’s press conference and spy some of the other passengers who will be accompanying them.

When the big day arrives, August Reza’s speech to his gathered audience setting out his vision is well received, and with huge excitement the train sets out on its journey. Before too long though, it becomes clear that all is not as it should be onboard and that someone has set about sabotaging the Solar Express. Will Hal, Uncle Nat and their fellow passengers be able to solve the mystery of what has happened? Is it linked to Mr Reza’s curious gift? And just what will happen to all onboard if the damage to the train cannot be reversed in time?

Although Hal and Uncle Nat have been at the centre of the action in all of their adventures, here they are as much the victims of the crime committed as the other passengers and with their lives in jeopardy together with everyone else’s, the need to solve the puzzle of who the saboteur is is far more personal than in their previous cases. As before, Hal’s gift for recording what goes on around him in his sketchbook is integral to the plot and for many readers, the perfect blend of text and the accompanying illustrations of Hal’s, beautifully brought to life by Elisa Paganelli, is a match made in heaven.

For anyone who is not yet a fan – and if you are not, then where have you been? – familiarity with the other titles is not necessary to thoroughly enjoy this one. Yes, August and Marianne Reza are familiar to many of us from Book 2 – Kidnap on the California Comet – but all of the necessary details from that story are skilfully woven into this book so that it works perfectly well as a standalone.

With many fans of this series in my current Year 5 class (including my lovely TA), all of whom were extremely envious when I told them I was having a sneaky advance read, this is a book with broad appeal – perfect not just for ferroequinologists everywhere, but for anyone and everyone of Year 4 age upwards who loves adventure, mystery and a damned good story. The good news for all of us is Book 6 – The Arctic Railway Assassin – is due in October this year, just in time to be popped into a great many Christmas stockings.

As always, the very hugest of thanks go to MacMillan Children’s Books and Net Galley for my virtual early read, ahead of publication on 17th February.

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With high-speed, heart-pounding danger; high-tech, environmentally-friendly science; and MacGyver-style engineering, the fifth instalment of the Adventures on Trains series is everything we hoped for and more.

We join Hal and his Uncle Nat on a three week adventure in Australia. Hal takes advantage of the stunning landscape to fill his sketchbook with every incredible detail. The pair have been invited by August Reza (from Kidnap on the California Comet) to be some of the first passengers on The Solar Express – winner of a futuristic train competition with a hydrogen-solar powered hybrid engine. Joining August is his daughter Marianne. Hal has mixed feelings about seeing Marianne again but at least the journey won’t be boring with her around!

The brains behind The Solar Express is Boaz Tudawali, a 14-year-old Aboriginal boy. He is determined to create the cleanest machine on the planet. His respect for the Aboriginal people and the Australian land is central to everything he does. If this trial run of his revolutionary train is a success, rail travel will be changed forever.

At first it seems they’re setting off on a train journey with no crime to solve. That soon changes as Hal discovers details others miss and the mystery becomes clear. Suddenly, what started as a special day out speeds towards a serious life or death situation. Hal, Uncle Nat and the others are in real danger if they don’t find the answers in time!

This story had me turning page after page, unable to put it down. I have no doubt that if Hal’s parents had any idea what was really happening on The Solar Express, they would never let him travel with Uncle Nat again! I can’t wait to share this book with all the Adventures on Trains fans in my life. The dream team of Sam Sedgman, MG Leonard and illustrator Elisa Paganelli have created a wonderful cast of characters and a fast-paced, thought-provoking mystery full of unending twists and turns that will leave readers guessing right until the final reveal.

Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books & NetGalleyUK for this exciting book!

*Since writing this review, my son has arrived home and pinched my iPad. He’s already lost in the adventure and I don’t think we’ll hear from him until bedtime! We’ve also just received a review copy of Sam Sedgman’s upcoming book, Epic Adventures: Explore the World in 12 Amazing Train Journeys, from NetGalleyUK so there’s no question what we’ll be reading next!

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And they’ve done it again! M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman are absolute writing machines! I think I say this each time but this was my favourite so far. I enjoyed the slightly different style of mystery and found it very hard to put down. May of my class will be so excited when this book comes out - this series is very popular!

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We loved the previous books in this series and this book is just as good. The narrative is exciting without being frightening . We would highly recommend this book for 6 - 60 yr olds.

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Hal and his uncle Nat are back in Sabotage on the Solar Express and I was absolutely thrilled when my NetGalley approval came through, allowing me to read an early copy. The Adventures on Trains series is one of those that I always get excited about and never have to read the blurb to know that I'm going to enjoy it, and I wasn't wrong: I devoured the book in less than 24 hours!
Sabotage on the Solar Express is set in Australia as Hal and Nat have been invited to be part of the launch of the Solar Express, the train that won a global competition to build a futuristic train run by tech entrepreneur and millionaire August Reza. We first met August and is daughter, Marianne on The California Comet and Hal isn't thrilled to see her again, as they didn't leave things on the best terms when they parted ways in America. However, Marianne is convinced that something feels wrong about the trip and this is backed-up when an elaborate and expensive model of the Rocket is delivered to August but nobody seems to know who it is from. Marianne is determined and eventually convinces Hal to help her discover exactly what is happening. The day of the maiden voyage dawns and everybody is excited a raring to go. After the press conference, the guests, including Boaz (the teenage designer of the train), the Rezas, and Hal and Nat, board the Express but the journey is barely under way when they discover that the train has been sabotaged! Suddenly, Hal and Marianne have to discover who has done this as well as try to stop the train before disaster strikes. Can they do it or is everybody on board in jeopardy?

Part of what I love about this series is the setting: both the different countries visited as well as the trains. I love to read the descriptions of the landscapes but am especially enamoured by the images created of the trains (and Elisa Paginelli's illustrations only help to enhance this). The book makes me want to take a journey on a similar train; to enjoy long lunches with unmissable views of wonderful landscapes and to wake-up in a completely different place - the dangerous situations Hal and Nat find themselves I would be happy not to encounter but they definitely make the books incredibly exciting! On a cold, dull January day, it was wonderful to be able to imagine I was zooming through Australia, with the sun beating in through the windows!

Hal and Nat make a perfect duo and I love the relationship that has built between them; there is a mutual respect between them that is based on trust and the fact that Hal is a child isn't an issue. In Sabotage on the Solar Express, I feel that Hal takes more of a lead than Nat and I like the slight change here. Hal's notebook and illustrations remain key in his ability to discover what is going on and tie in the book's illustrations perfectly.

I have to say that I think Sabotage on the Solar Express has to be the most gripping of the series so far and I found it impossible to put the book down (I was going to go for a run this afternoon but was far too gripped on the plot to even contemplate getting changed, let alone leave the house!). The plot moves quickly, especially once they board the train and I still hadn't guessed who the saboteur was when Hal came to make his announcement! I don't want to give anything away so I won't say anything more but ... wow! Hold onto your seat with this book as you are in for one heck of a journey!

Sabotage on the Solar Express pulls into book stores on the 17th February so why not pre-order your copy so you can jump on board as soon as it is released? I promise, it's a journey you won't forget!

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I really love this series and this one was really good fun. I loved the setting, Australia is a beautiful country and the descriptions really did well in conveying the vastness of it. As always I love Hal and his Uncle, their relationship is so sweet and I really like that Hal has complete trust in him even though he is a grown up ;)

Solid 5 stars, cannot wait to have my physical copy in my hands.

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