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The Harrowing Aftermath of Chernobyl - an Editorial Review of "Trans-Mongolian Express"

Book Blurb:

In the harrowing aftermath of Chernobyl's meltdown in 1986, the fate of Eastern Europe hangs by a thread.

From Beijing, American radiation scientist Lara, once a thorn in the Russian mob's side, is drawn back into the shadows of the Soviet Union on the Trans-Mongolian Express. She isn't alone. Anton, a Soviet scientist exiled for predicting Chernobyl's catastrophe, is on a quest to expose the truth. Amidst them, Timur, a Chechen giant fueled by vengeance, plots to destroy the already crumbling Soviet Union.

Suddenly, a murder on the remote tracks of the Gobi thrusts them into a deadly game of cat and mouse. As Chief Sheriff Bat races to solve the murder, their lives are thrown into jeopardy. Lara finds an unexpected ally in Gang, a reluctant assassin sent to end her life, and an illicit romance blooms amidst the chaos. But Gang isn't the only killer onboard. A hidden menace lurks, threatening to unravel all their plans.

In this electrifying ride across a historical backdrop, suspense and passion collide in an unyielding dance of survival and redemption. Who will survive the Trans-Mongolian Express?

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Author Bio:

David L. Robbins was born in Richmond, Virginia, on March 10, 1954. He grew up in Sandston, a small town east of Richmond out by the airport; his father was among the first to sit behind the new radar scope in the air traffic control tower. Both his parents, Sam and Carol, were veterans of WWII. Sam saw action in the Pacific, especially at Pearl Harbor.

In 1976, David graduated with a B.A. in Theater and Speech from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Having little actual theatrical talent, he didn't know what to do for a living. David decided to attend what he calls the "great catch-basin of unfocused over-achievers": law school. He received his Juris Doctorate at William and Mary in 1980, then practiced environmental law in Columbia, S.C. for precisely a year (his father demanded back the money for law school if David practiced for less than one year - he quit two weeks before the anniversary but got Sam to agree that the two weeks' vacation David had accumulated could be included). David decided to attend Psychology school, having an affinity for people's stories and a fascination with woe. However, while waiting for admisison in 1981, he began a successful freelance writing career. He began writing fiction in 1997, and has since published twelve novels. He's currently working on the thirteenth, the fourth in his U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen series, as well as several scripts for the stage and screen. He has won awards for his essays and screenplays, and has had three stage plays produced.

David is an accomplished guitarist, studying the works of James Taylor and Latin classical. At six feet six inches tall, he stays active with his sailboat, shooting sporting clays, weightlifting, traveling to research his novels. He is the founder of the James River Writers ( a non-profit group in his hometown of Richmond that helps aspiring writers and students work and learn together as a writing community. He also co-founded The Podium Foundation (, a non-profit which brings writing and critical reasoning programs to the students of Richmond's city high schools, as well as support programs for city educators. Most recently, David is the creator of The Mighty Pen Project, an intensive writing program for Virginia's military veterans and their families, in partnership with the Virginia War Memorial. He also teaches advanced creative writing as a visiting professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's Honors College. David resides in Richmond, near the James River.

To learn more, or to contact David, please go to

Editorial Review:

"Trans-Mongolian Express" by David L. Robbins is a captivating journey through the

desolation of the Gobi Desert, set against a vast and unforgiving landscape. Lara, Anton,

Timur, Gang, and Bat come to life against the arid backdrop, and the author's evocative

narrative reveals not only their struggle for survival but also the complexity of their

relationships. Each character adds a new layer of intrigue.

Robbins's prose style creates a palpable atmosphere, and carefully selected details provide the

reader with a realistic sense of the Gobi in 1982. Elements of mystery and adventure, such as

the encounter with the she-wolf and the discovery of a mysterious object, add tension and


The wolf could not count. She knew only few and many, different from none. She understood cold and heat but did not think of either unless they were extreme. Even then, she knew what to do, curl in a place out of the wind or the light, or move. She knew living from dead, and living meant hunger. Hunger drove her to everything. [...] She ran to the top of a sand hill to watch down on it. Soon, a monster, though not the name, but a monster with an immense back and a rumbling roar raced over it. The monster came from the end of the sand and rushed away to the end. She stayed on the hill, smelling fire. She remembered something from the pack. To be afraid. She waited more while hunger set in harder. The sun peaked, then began to plummet.”

The book provides a fascinating journey into a wild world, enriching the reader's experience

with vivid imagery and memorable characters. The central character, Lara, finds herself in an

extremely tense situation, and the well-constructed dialogues between her and members of a

criminal gang add a captivating element to the story.

Robbins continues to captivate the reader with vivid and tense imagery, such as the moment

when Lara is forced to sit with a bag over her head in a car, feeling as if she is on a sinister

journey. Realistic descriptions of the surroundings and the tense interactions between

characters contribute to the palpable atmosphere of the novel. The tense dialogue between

Lara and the gang leader, referencing her Russian name and identity, adds complexity to the

main character.

Simultaneously, the shift to Anton's story at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant adds another

level of interest and suspense. Robbins carefully addresses the technical aspects of a potential

nuclear catastrophe, bringing an element of realism and urgency to the narrative. The author

continues to surprise the reader by branching the story into three distinct points: Lara in

Moscow, Timur in Afghanistan, and Anton in Chernobyl, each experiencing unique and

dangerous challenges.

In Beijing, Timur employs his diplomatic skills, attempting to secure financial and military

support for the fight against the Russians in Afghanistan. The dialogues between Timur and

Shah Barat provide insight into the complexities of international relations and the challenges

the characters face in trying to change the course of events. Meanwhile, Lara engages in a

physical confrontation with Björn, showcasing her combat skills. Robbins captures moments

of action and tension in detailed fight descriptions, adding a dynamic element to the story. On

the other hand, Anton is caught in the midst of a major global event. News of a nuclear

accident in the Soviet Union and the potential consequences for neighboring countries add an

extra layer of tension and anxiety. The dialogue between Lara, Björn, and Zhang Yang hints

at the international dimensions of the situation and how it affects the protagonists.

Robbins takes readers on a captivating journey through the spectacular landscapes of China.

Detailed descriptions of the train and the surrounding environment add a layer of realism and

contribute to the tense atmosphere of the story.

Lara, now on the Trans-Mongolian train, provides a glimpse into her professional life and

tasks at the American embassy and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Her encounter

with Sinjin, an enigmatic Englishman, adds a mysterious element and sustains the suspense.

The dialogue between the two reveals information about the nuclear accident in Ukraine and

the international interests involved.

She said, “I’m the health science liaison for the American embassy in Beijing. I also work for the International Atomic Energy Agency. My field is the health effects of ionizing radiation.” “And the equipment?” “For radiological testing. I’ll be taking readings along the train route west.” Sinjin held the teacup beneath his nose. She asked, “What do the British know about the accident in Ukraine?” “As I say, I don’t have much in the way of duties at the embassy. I wander about.” He set down his tea. “What I did catch in bits and pieces is that something awful has happened. People are being sickened, some are dying. There’s a radioactive plume heading northwest of Kiev.”

Anton discovers the wonders of the Chinese landscapes aboard the same train and interacts

with passengers, including Timur, adding a new narrative thread. In the city of Datong, Lara

and Anton meet Gang, who adds intrigue. Travelers gradually reveal their stories, connecting

surprisingly despite cultural differences. The relationship between Lara and Gang adds

humanity and hope in the tragic context of the nuclear subject. "Trans-Mongolian Express"

expertly explores the Chernobyl nuclear explosion and its impact, surprising readers with the

characters' evolution and the intense atmosphere of the journey through Mongolia.

Lara and Gang deepen their relationship through dialogues and moments of silence, subtly

highlighting the nuances of their connection. In the Mongolian desert, an intense moment of

romance and open discussions about violence and culture add complexity to the narrative.

Robbins delves into profound topics and complex interactions in a captivating literary

journey, highlighting the devastating impact of the nuclear disaster in the context of

intersecting lives on the Trans-Mongolian Express.

Maxim falls victim to the plans of Timur and Gang, adding thriller elements and amplifying

ethical dilemmas for Anton and Lara. Tension rises in the train compartment, and revelations

about Maxim's death surprise readers, emphasizing the ingenuity of the characters. Intense

dialogues explore topics such as justice and violence, and the disposal of a corpse in the

desert highlights human limits under pressure. As the train approaches its destination,

Robbins deepens the intrigues, promising an explosive conclusion.

Lara and Gang reveal interesting nuances of their personalities under the pressure and danger

of the journey. Robbins maintains tension and intrigue as relationships become more

complicated, offering a captivating look at the landscapes and cultures of Russia. Bat faces

dilemmas in this foreign world. The suspenseful story reaches its climax in Russia,

suggesting an exciting ending and keeping readers interested until the last pages.

The final chapters, set in various locations such as Ukraine and China, bring a note of

diversity and provide readers with an extended perspective on the consequences of the

Chernobyl tragedy. The author addresses themes such as corruption, state secrets, and

personal sacrifice in the face of extreme situations.

Throughout the book, the author's narrative style stands out with vivid imagery and

well-crafted details, giving readers a palpable sense of the journey. "Trans-Mongolian

Express" successfully blends elements of thriller, drama, and mystery in a balanced way,

captivating the reader from start to finish.

In Ukraine, the story turns towards the heart of the Chernobyl disaster. Vivid descriptions of

tunnel construction efforts and the sacrifices of people paint a poignant picture of the

consequences. Timur becomes a symbol of resistance and hard work, bringing a mythical

touch to a tragic context.

The diggers worked bare-chested from the heat in the tunnel. The ventilation in the shaft was poor, and there was a small sun dropping down through the sand above their heads. Timur took off his shirt, too. When the men dug alongside him for the first time, when they saw Timur put his back into the work, some called him Zmei, a dragon out of Russian myth who could spit fire and turn himself into a kitchen tool like a broom or a mop to escape detection, and regrow his head if lopped off. No one asked Zmei about himself, his past, or the old bullet hole and two freshly-knit wounds in his side. He did not swill vodka with the diggers on breaks and no one made him a friend.”

In China, the story continues to explore the implications of the disaster, and the character

Lara becomes the link between the secrets of Chernobyl and international interest. The

tension between international politics and human consequences adds narrative complexity.

In the end, "Trans Mongolian Express" provides a glimpse into a world shaken by dramatic

events, with captivating characters and intricate situations. The author's rich style, filled with

details and imagery, brings the story to life, creating a remarkable reading experience. With

intrigue, action, and an exploration of the human condition in the face of adversity, this book

stands out as a captivating and thought-provoking read.


“Trans-Mongolian Express” by David L. Robbins receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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