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The Lost Luggage Porter
A Jim Stringer Mystery, #3

by Andrew Martin

      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.

The Book

Harcourt / Harvest Books
January 2008 (1st US Edition)
Trade Paperback
0156030748 / 978-0-15-603074-8
Historical Mystery [1906 York, England & France]
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2008
© 2008