by Edward Marston
I picked this book up during a brief stop at Pickering Station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Travelling on an old steam train brought a sense of nostalgia and finding that they had a series of books set on the railways of the mid 19th century, I just couldn’t resist.
The Railway Detective is the first in a series to feature Detective Inspector Colbeck of the newly created Detective branch based at Scotland Yard. Colbeck himself is a bit of a dandy – a well dressed, well-educated man who gets a little more than he bargained for when he heads out of the city to investigate a violent robbery on the railway.
The expansion of the railways throughout the 19th century changed almost every aspect of people’s lives. It was undoubtedly a revolution, but not everyone was in favour of these new locomotives traversing the English countryside. The railways had their fair share of detractors and it is one such opponent to steam train who is the mastermind behind the daring crimes that Inspector Colbeck is called to investigate.
The scheme has been planned with military precision and Colbeck soon finds himself dealing not only with the robbery itself but also murder, blackmail and kidnap. And who would have suspected that along the way, this clinical and driven policeman would find himself emotionally involved in the case?
Morton obviously has an interest in the railways and is able to weave into the tale plenty of information about the trains and the people who worked with them. But it is not in any way a book just for enthusiasts. All in all, The Railway Detective is a good period detective story which just happens to be centred around the railways.
The characters are all very interesting in their own ways and I really liked the narrative which I found easy and quick to read.