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Railway Detective (A & B Crime) Hardcover – March 22, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: A & B Crime
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Allison & Busby; First Edition edition (March 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749006331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749006334
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The prolific Marston (the Domesday Books series, etc.) starts yet another historical mystery series with this middling police procedural that starts well but runs out of steam. Robert Colbeck, a former attorney now serving as an inspector in the fledging Scotland Yard of 1851, investigates a daring daylight train robbery that results in the derailment of the train and the theft of gold and mail. Later, those initially suspected of having provided the inside information that enabled the scheme's startling and speedy success turn up dead, while someone begins to blackmail members of the upper-class with the stolen letters. The spirited byplay among Colbeck, his rule-bound superintendent and his sergeant recalls Peter Lovesey's superlative Sergeant Cribb novels. But while Colbeck is a bright, unconventional and imaginative sleuth, Marston's choice to unmask the crimes' prime movers halfway through and to reduce an engaging female character, the daughter of the train's driver, into a stereotypical damsel in distress ultimately disappoints. One hopes Colbeck's next exploit will offer a more suspenseful, sophisticated plot.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


A heady romp, solidly grounded on fascinating historical detail. -- Kirkus Reviews

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Customer Reviews

It is just too pat.
I am reading this series of books simultaneously with my uncle in England, and we both have thoroughly enjoyed them.
Amazon Customer
The story and the characters are all predictable.
D. Nershi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Billy J. Hobbs VINE VOICE on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If Edward Marston stays true to his writing history, his legions of fans can welcome a new series! In "The Railway Detective," Marston introduces us to Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck of the new Scotland Yard. A charming, some

say "dandy," gentleman of the Victorian school, Colbeck seems an unlikely person for his job--solving cases and catching the crooks in 1850s England.

It is the dawn of the age of the locomotive and it does not come peaceably. There are enough "foes" of this "new fangled contraption" and many will go to all ends to try to put a stop to it and the new Age that is surely dawning on the British Empire.

Early on we know who the culprits are, as Marston doesn't play games with the reader. Instead, he permits Colbeck and his Sergeant Leeming to methodically put the pieces of the puzzle together and, despite the usual suspects and the usual

obstacles, arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

A train is highjacked in Chapter One and subsequently and deliberately de-railed. It is carrying gold bullion from the Royal Mint and the day's mail. The robbery is carried out with true military precision (a clue Colbeck quickly picks up).

It is such a perfect and professional job that Scotland Yard knows that there have to be "insiders" involved. A few murders later (Colbeck cleverly links them to the robbery), the case is put to rest.

Marston doesn't do histrionics and not a lot of melodrama. Instead, he tells a story that not only serves to keep out interest in solving the crime but provides much readable background of the time and place. There's the usual violence in a police procedural murder mystery and Marston also throws in a limited romantic turn, too!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Marston kicks off a new Victorian-era series with this introduction to Inspector Robert Colbeck of the newly-formed Scotland Yard. Set in 1851, the book passes the reader's time enjoyably enough, but is pretty frothy and fluffy and almost instantly forgettable. The story kicks off with the well-organized robbery of a train carrying gold bullion and the mail. The sharp-witted, plainclothed, dandy Insp. Colbeck is assigned to solve the case with utmost haste, as the public's confidence in the relatively new rail technology and mail service must not be shaken. Instantly establishing himself as more perceptive and keen-witted than the rail police, he sets off on a trail of clues and bodies that lead him from the slums of London, to the Crystal Palace Exposition, to a rich country estate. Everything proceeds in due course, from point A to B to C and so on, with a generic romantic subplot tacked on.

Many of the elements feel very familiar and worn. The hero is a emblem of progress and the new ways of doing things, always pushing against traditions and rules. His boss is that classic police stuffed shirt, always grumbling, getting in the way, and complaining about the hero's unorthodox procedures. Colbeck's sidekick is another standby, the sturdy, dependable sergeant who is a little doubtful of the hero, but will follow him into the breach and defend him stoutly against naysayers. The romantic interest is ultimately reduced to damsel in distress plot device, and almost every other supporting character, from the villan's leering henchman, to a huge brawling Irish bouncer is a type rather than a fully-realized individual. And while all the trappings of the story appear to be historically accurate, the dialogue feels awfully modern for some reason.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Provocateur on November 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Railway Detective is a not very well written, 'Boy's own' kind of yarn. It containes predictable, old fashioned dialogue and has a far-fetched plot. I was surprised to learn that the author is a writer of long experience and rather expected to find him to be someone who had had a first-attempt accepted for publication. The book contains an extremely high and unacceptable number of glaring mistakes (typos etc) and should be carefully re proof-read (and re-written?) before being re-printed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul Weiss on February 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Victorian England in the 1850s is the dawn of the locomotive age. Trains are supplanting the use of horses, carriages and canals as the method of choice for economic movement of goods and personal travel. But there are those who think of the trains as an industrial abomination, a blight on the pastoral beauty of England's countryside and unthinking "progress" that should be fought and halted on every possible front.

"The Railway Detective" is a very clever and entirely enjoyable introduction to Inspector Robert Colbeck, an intelligent, innovative and imaginative up-and-coming detective in the relatively new Scotland Yard of 1851. He has been assigned by his hidebound, equally unimaginative and outrageously old-fashioned Superintendent to the case of a train robbery. The brilliantly orchestrated theft of an enormous amount of bank gold and a number of bags of en-route mail together with the brutal pistol whipping of the engineer who dared to confront the robbers all pointed in the direction of a heist carefully planned with almost military precision. The use of inside information from the train company, the bank and the post office also seemed to be a foregone conclusion. The questions were why and how??

Marston makes excellent use of all aspects of his Victorian England setting to produce an effective historical novel. Class distinctions are convincingly maintained by the conduct and the dialogue of his cast of characters. But Marston's decision to reveal the culprit of the piece far too early in the novel, reduces what would have been a clever mystery to little more than a cozy and somewhat predictable police procedural that relies for its quality on dialogue and characterization.
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