HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Book Review: Edward Marston – The Excursion Train

Posted by HelenEdith on April 19, 2009

(Book Two of the Inspector Robert Colbeck Series)

It is some time since I read Book One of this series, and I commented at the time that I’d like to read more about Inspector Robert Colbeck. My opportunity came when I was checking out the library at Biggin Hill and I found “The Excursion Train” sitting on the shelves just waiting to be read.

The book opens in London in 1852 with a huge crowd converging upon Paddington Station to catch an excursion train run by the Great Western Railway. It is transporting the crowd to an illegal prizefight at Twyford in Berkshire. Unfortunately for one of the passengers, he never makes it to the prizefight, but is garrotted in the railway carriage he travelled in.

Enter Inspector Robert Colbeck and his assistant, Sergeant Victor Leeming. They catch a train straight to Twyford, arriving at about the time the prizefight ended. They inspect the murder scene in the carriage, interview the attending Railway Policemen, and move the body to the guards van and bring it back to London on the returning excursion train.

It doesn’t take long for the action to shift to Kent when it transpires that the murder victim was a hangman and that his most recent job had been at Maidstone Gaol, where he had executed a prisoner from Ashford. It seems that there could be any number of people who wanted the hangman dead, so it’s a case of sifting through the candidates looking for a likely one. It is also looking like the hanging was a miscarriage of justice and that they’re also looking for the real killer of the man for whom the prisoner had been executed.

We also meet Madeleine Andrews again. She is the daughter of the engine driver who was injured in “The Railway Detective”. Fortunately he is restored to full health, and thinks that romance is brewing between Robert and Madeleine. It’s a very slow-brewing romance, and at the rate it’s going, it might take several more “Inspector Robert Colbeck” mysteries before anything comes of it, but it makes an interesting sub-plot.

Robert and Victor do eventually get to the bottom of all the goings-on, but not before I had enjoyed a picture of places which I know in Kent portrayed in a gentler and slower, although not less brutal age.

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