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Publisher: Allison & Busby
Release Date: February 2004
ISBN: 0749006331
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre:   Historical Crime [1851 London]
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:  

The Railway Detective 
By Edward Marston

   When the London to Birmingham mail train is robbed, leaving the driver seriously injured and the train a wreck, people are outraged—this is a new kind of crime for a new kind of transport. With the Crystal Palace about to open and proudly exhibit several examples of the latest railway engines, it looks as though not everybody is as excited about new technology—or is it just an opportunity for a new type of crime? Debonair Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and his trusty Sergeant Victor Leeming are about to have their work cut out for them to catch the criminals, hampered by their irascible superior but aided by some of Colbeck’s unorthodox ideas.

    This is Edward Marston’s first foray into the Victorian era, and the first of a new series about Colbeck and Leeming. As ever, he manages to conjure up the period well enough in a few broad brush strokes, and the plot moves along at a good pace. Plenty happens in the book and you won’t be bored, but I was surprised to discover that this is not his usual whodunit format, as we are told fairly early on who is committing the crimes. All that remains is for the sleuths to piece it all together for themselves—this is not an unknown device for crime fiction (Columbo, for example) but if you want suspense and a puzzle to solve you won’t find them here. For me the best thing about the novel was Marston’s evocation of a nation in love with the idea of new technology, and when we are told that his father was an engine driver it certainly shows in knowledge of, and affection for, those wonderful old steam trains. Turn the next book into a proper whodunit and come up with a more unusual plot and this series ought to shape up very nicely.