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The Necropolis Railway: A Jim Stringer Mystery (Jim Stringer Mysteries) Paperback – January 15, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

First published in the U.K. in 2002, Martin's U.S. debut offers smooth prose, but suffers from its callow, 19-year-old protagonist, Jim Stringer. In 1903, Stringer leaves York for London to make something of himself on the railway, a consuming passion of his for years. Despite his letter of reference from a director of the London and South Western Railway, Stringer receives a hostile reception at Necropolis Railway and is soon delegated to dirty scut work connected with the transport of coffins to nearby cemeteries. When he learns his predecessor mysteriously disappeared, Stringer pursues an amateur investigation that turns dangerous after several people turn up dead. Basil Copper made better use of the creepy, atmospheric Necropolis Railway setting in his 1980 novel, Necropolis, and the almost impossibly naïve Stringer stumbles on the truth rather than displaying genuine cleverness. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

When this creepy-crawly suspense tale was originally published in the UK last year, the London Times called it "a classy potboiler . . . in the best traditions of Dickens and Collins (let alone Christie and Chandler)." There may be just a touch of hyperbole there, but the novel is certainly worthy of praise. The atmosphere is first-rate: Martin does a stunning job of bringing to life the era when steam locomotives chugged from London through the British countryside. And he intensifies by giving his hero, Jim Stringer, a job on one of those trains--not just any train but the one that carries bodies from London to burial on the city's outskirts. A refugee from the poverty of Yorkshire, Jim had been reduced to cleaning women's lavatories in railway stations before getting his big break and landing on the Necropolis Railway, where he endures hostile coworkers and working conditions only slightly better than those in the toilets. Even worse is his growing suspicion that a former worker may have met with foul play. The lurid tone and Jim's growing uneasiness lead to a supremely scary climax. Connie Fletcher
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Product Details

  • Series: Jim Stringer Mysteries
  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (January 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156030683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156030687
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,338,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Boer on May 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am neither an avid railway buff, nor a frequent mystery reader, but I thought the Necropolis Railway was terrific bit of historical fiction.

I picked this up because my four year old has somehow become a train buff, and I thought I might learn a bit more about the "steamies" beyond what the Rev. Awdry had to offer. I wasn't disappointed.

In a word, the novel is atmospheric; you get a real sense of the sooty blackness of the age of steam among these hulking engines. I also enjoyed the breathless enthusiasm that the protagonist has for the railways. It hadn't occurred to me that railway engineers were at one point the jet pilots of their day, but of course they must have been.

The mystery plot itself was a little flat: plenty of red herrings, but the villain wasn't particularly well developed, and his motivations seemed rather obscure. But like, say, Motherless Brooklyn (one of my favorites) the mystery itself is really just a frame; the interesting parts are the characters and the settings. And, of course, the trains.

I will be reading the sequel; I am sure that when Martin focuses on a more popular subject he will write a best seller.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Graceann Macleod on June 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
I think I would have gotten much more out of this novel if I had understood how steam railways work. I simply didn't understand the terminology and thus I think I missed quite a lot in the telling.

The murder mystery was a good one, and I didn't see the answer coming until the protagonist did, which is always a good thing. I hate "mysteries" where I can see the answer 100 pages in advance. That didn't happen here. However, Stringer isn't a superior sleuth; he just has fortunate accidents.

I didn't understand the need for the female character in this story, either. It seemed she was just placed there because "that's what you do." She was one-dimensional and quite bland. The other characters are a bit more compelling and I would have liked to have heard more from them. Martin's descriptions of Edwardian London are spot on, and since I am very familiar with the Waterloo/Lower Marsh area that he describes, it was great fun to spot the locations that still exist today.

All in all, I'm glad I read Necropolis Railway, but I don't think I got as much out of it as a railroad buff would. I picked it up because the idea of a train that runs only to a cemetery sounded creepy in a fun way, and I was interested in that concept. I think I'll pick up other books that talk about Necropolis and Brookwood Cemetery, and I'll probably get a better understanding from those.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By tertius3 on May 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a joint review of the initial books in two mystery series set on English railways during Queen Victoria's reign, Andrew Martin's The Necropolis Railway, and Edward Marston's The Railway Detective .

Martin begins at that bottom with young Jim Stringer, whose dream is to live on the footplate, driving a great iron locomotive in the Gilded Age. Now he is just an engine cleaner, trying to make the leap to fireman. He is subject to severe hazing by his colleagues in the locomotive shed in London, absent any training programme. As gradually emerges, in tandem with his growing skills, this country-boy was hired under suspicious circumstances by a director of a special funereal railway. The mystery is what nefarious things are going on behind the scenes. The excitement is in the arduous training and enlightenment of Jim. The suspense is whether the observant young man will survive the attention of his malignant supervisors and prove worthy.

Marston jumps into the early days of the railways. Robert Colbeck, a dapper detective--nattily-dressed and proud of it--is from the new Metropolitan Police of Scotland Yard. He takes on the mystery of who had robbed and crashed a mail train full of gold and sensitive mail. Was it done for money or out of hatred of the new-fangled railways? Dastardly deeds continue to affect the railway and its locomotives, and endanger Colbeck's budding infatuation with a poor but beautiful girl, the tearful daughter of an assaulted train driver.

Martin immerses you in the smoke, sweat, and argot of the 1903 era of mechanical monsters; Marston's could be set almost anywhere in the generic Victorian era. Martin imbues his story with Jim's sense of awe before the steam power and mechanical clackery of the time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Judith M. Nichols on November 29, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has all that I require in historical detective stories. The vast Waterloo station and railway yards form an oppressive, threatening backdrop in a London still subject to sinister fogs and gas lights. Period detail and language are excellent and the characters well drawn. (Whenever before has the romatic interest in a novel been referred to as 'the landlady')? I really liked the author's slightly deprecating attitude to Jim. He is young and impulsive, gauche and a railway bore but he is tough, brave and persistent with a developing self-awareness that bodes well for future novels. There are also enough red-herrings and tight corners to keep up the excitement.
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I love crime fiction and I love steam engines - this is a great combination of the two.

We are introduced to young Jim Stringer at the beginning of this book. By a bit of good fortune he meets an influential stranger (the dapper Mr Rowland-Smith) who is able to offer Jim an opportunity to fulfil his dream of becoming a steam engine driver. With Smith's offer, Jim is able to leave Yorkshire and move to London to take up a position as a steam engine cleaner with the London and South Western Railway in the company's workshops at Nine Elms in the London Borough of Wandsworth near Waterloo Station. Engine cleaning is the bottom of the rung that leads up to being a steam engine fireman and eventually a driver. Jim's first job is cleaning the two locomotives used to pull the funeral trains for the Necropolis Railway.

However, there are several clouds hanging over Jim's new employment:

1. His predecessor, Henry Taylor, was murdered; and

2. Jim's fellow workers on the "Half Link" have poor Jim tagged as a stooge or snitch for Rowland-Smith and the workshops "Governor" (the Fat Controller?).

3. These scoundrels were probably involved in poor Henry's demise.

Henry Taylor it turns out was not the only murder associated with Nine Elms and the Necropolis Railway.

The rest of the book is Jim's naration of his hunt for the perpetrators of these dastardly wrongs. Along the way he learns the rudimentary skills of the detective, fights off the threats to his life and limb from the "villains" of the Half Link and falls in love with his land-lady. How does he fare? Read the book and see!
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