London 1851. With the opening of the Great Exhibition at hand, interest is mounting in the engineering triumphs of the railways, but not everyone feels like celebrating… In an audacious attack, the London to Birmingham mail train is robbed and derailed, causing many casualties. Planned with military precision, this crime proves a challenge to Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck who fights to untangle a web of murder, blackmail and destruction. As Colbeck closes in on the criminal masterminds, events take an unexpected turn when the beautiful Madeleine, daughter of the injured train driver, becomes a pawn in the criminals’ game. With time running out, good and evil, new and old, battle against each other. But will the long arm of the law have speed on its side? Full of historical detail, The Railway Detective is an action-packed dip into murky 1850s London.
Author: Edward Marston
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Release Date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Chosen Format: Paperback
My Rating of ‘The Railway Detective’: DNF (1 Star when on Amazon/Goodreads etc …)
I knew the day would come on my blog when I would have to post a ‘Did Not Finish’. There have been a couple of candidates, but this one was too offensive to my historical fiction enjoyment. Which is a shame, as I was really hoping to have stumbled across the next ‘Sherlock’ or ‘Poirot’ in my life. I can only apologise to the memory of those two great authors for ever having had such thoughts. I hate not finishing a book, and really tried with this one (got to about the 80% mark).
The premise of The Railway Detective is a good one. I like the fact that we have a thoroughly un-explainable reason for anyone wanting to destroy parts of the railway, assault train staff and make off with the contents of whatever a train was carrying. Everyone loves a good heist.
The problem was, that way before the halfway point, the author introduces us to the most annoying cast of pantomime villains and their reasons for doing everything. Just what I wanted; all mystery gone and an annoying, unbelievable, borderline pathetic cast of antagonists. I’m not sure if I laid that on too thick, but that was sarcasm.
It’s not just the villains that are so heavily stereotyped/pantomime-like. Every character is just downright unbelievable. We have the foppish dandy as our protagonist detective along with his stoic sidekick who is dumb to the point of it being impossible to belief he still has employment in the police force. There’s an Irish bruiser who just enjoys using his fists to solve everything and a commanding officer with a stick so far up his backside it’s no wonder he works late and rarely ever leaves the office. He’s quite clearly planted to the spot.
And I haven’t even mentioned the dialogue. I don’t want to say too much about it other than it’s really quite bad. When the main protagonist talks, he might as well be reading out of a manual or a tourist information book. It was the dialogue that often had me rolling my eyes and putting the book down after a few pages.
The whole plot would have been wonderful for a mystery/detective novel if there were any mystery left to it. We already know what’s being done by whom and it’s just a case of watching our hero find his way to the conclusion we have already made by piecing together some of the most un-obvious clues (but I suppose when Sherlock could do it, why can’t everyone?)
I said earlier that I found it offensive to my historical fiction enjoyment. The author obviously didn’t care too much for the constraints of the time period. Having a young, desirable, fairly well-to-do woman walk the streets (at night!) without a chaperone is a no-no. Having her repeatedly go to the office (again, alone) and spend a lot of time in the company of a man she quite clearly wants and who quite clearly wants her (still very much alone and unchaperoned) is a very big no-no. That, coupled with everything else just robbed me of my enjoyment and any believability.
Considering someone has robbed me of the above … perhaps we can get in touch with the Railway Detective and see if he can use his dazzling skills to get it back for me?