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The great train mystery

Published Sep. 1, 2005

You'll have to run to the kitchen for a snack while you read Dine and Die on the Danube Express: A Gourmet Detective Mystery by Peter King (St. Martin's $22.95, 240 pp). It's full of recipes from Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria _ all countries on this tour of the ill-fated Danube Express.

The rich and elite of Europe have gathered for the famous train's elaborate 25th anniversary run from Germany to Romania. No expense is spared to make this trip memorable. The meals and wines will be the best their host countries can offer. Hired by another rail line, the Gourmet Detective is aboard to see how it's done.

No sooner has the Danube Express left the station in Munich than a Hungarian stage actress vanishes from her suite. The train police enlist the help of the Gourmet Detective, and he manages to glean information from his fellow passengers as he dines on things like stuffed breast of veal with buttered chestnuts and Hungarian goose liver pate. Not a bad assignment, right?

The Danube Express is the thinly disguised Orient Express, which I rode when I was a student in Vienna. I can vouch for the historical authenticity of King's descriptions of Munich and Vienna. However, I rode in third class, so I was at the other end of the culinary spectrum. Instead of dining on elegant crystal, I bought bread and cheese and sausages from vendors who sold their food to passengers through the windows of the train. Now, I'd like to go back and do it right _ with the great dishes the Gourmet Detective gets to sample. Just no murders, please.

Peter King lives in Sarasota and is author of several mysteries.

_ Susan Fernandez