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The Excursion Train
Railway Detective series #2

by Edward Marston

      This is the second in Edward Marstonís mid Victorian railway series about dapper Inspector Colbeck and his disgruntled sidekick Sergeant Leeming. Although prizefighting is illegal, an excursion train has been organized to take boxing enthusiasts to a big match in Berkshire. When one of the passengers is found garroted and it is discovered that he was a hangman, the mystery deepens. Many people might have wanted him dead, but when a second victim is found murdered in the same way, the field narrows. Some old sins cast very long shadows, and Colbeck and Leeming will need all their ingenuity to find the culprit before another victim is found.

When I reviewed the first book I said that if Marston turned the sequel into a proper whodunit and came up with a more unusual plot, the series ought to shape up very nicely. He has done just that, and this is a fast-paced, exciting novel with lots of plot, a dash of humor, a well-realized historical background and some lively characters. In short, Edward Marston has done it again, and it is easy to see why his work has won awards. This second entry is also a wonderful evocation of a nation in love with the idea of new technology, and it is obvious that Marston has a feel for the old steam trains. I didnít guess whodunit, as this is the sort of story that has the police chasing all over the place after red herrings. And when I finished it, I was content that I had been told a jolly good tale. The only annoyance in this fine book is Marstonís peculiar style of writing dialogue; it is all too easy to see that he has written a lot for radio, and those short, stilted sentences detract from what it otherwise great stuff.

The Book

Allison & Busby
29 June 2006
Historical Crime [1852, London and environs]
More at US || UK

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006