Jim Stringer is trying to relish his recent promotion to official railway detective after his adventures as a
professional railway man but amateur detective; but his heart still beats to the rhythm of the giant engines.
While his head is spinning as he tries to figure out what this new job is about, since neither the Police Manual
nor his new boss are as much help as he might wish.
Chance gives him an assist when an attempt to recover his own bundle of Railway Magazines puts him in
touch with the somewhat enigmatic Lost Luggage Porter, who nudges him into contact with some of the very thieves
his new boss wants him to go undercover to investigate. The problem, as he nervously infiltrates their gang and
becomes involved in their crimes, is to stay undercover without slipping entirely, and fatally, over his head.
Set in York, England in 1906, with a foray into Edwardian France, this is a vividly atmospheric thriller,
redolent of place and time, and full of equally vivid characters. Martin clearly knows his railways and his era
- the book is full of period detail and insider's minutiae about the railways - but that knowledge is comfortably
integrated into the storytelling and never force-fed to the reader. The language can take a bit of getting used
to, especially for Americans, as it combines regional dialect with speech patterns from the time. But it rings
dead on true and the rhythm of it in your mental ear carries you right along with Jim from plotting in gritty
one room pubs to the ongoing conflict between his old fashioned father and feminist wife.
This is a very well written thriller, whose storytelling moves crisply along while bringing to life its very
different world. The best part of it is its solid believability. The world building is rock solid, the characters
- even bit parts such as a barmaid - memorable and vivid. While Stringer himself makes a likable and believable
hero the reader can readily relate to, full of the sorts of real life concerns and doubts they would have in his
position rather than the almost superhuman abilities of some detectives. Recommended.