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The Great Train Robbery Mass Market Paperback – October 28, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 254 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Mass Paperback Edition edition (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061706493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061706493
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (254 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This true story set in Victorian London in 1855 is a beauty of a read. With Michael Crichton weaving his magic over the scene and Edward Pierce, mastermind and protagonist, we have an unbeatable combination. The author does wonders describing authentic period scenes and showing us the huge divide between the English middle class and the wretched poor in Victorian times.
Edward Pierce wants 12,000 pounds sterling that will be sent by rail to fund the Crimean War. The obstacles are huge. It takes four keys to get to and unlock the safe. This was before the days of nitroglycerine, so the safe could not be blown, and it was too heavy to carry away. All four keys are held by separate persons and must be found and copied. The thieves have to get the payload unseen off of a moving train. Mr. Pierce has a hazy background, presents himself as a wealthy traveling businessman with a fine home in London, a well-dressed gentleman with an appreciation of the finer things. As we get to know him better, we learn he has nerves of steel, a quick and clever wit, and is relentless planner with infinite patience. He is blessed with a mysterious mistress, Miriam, whose acting abilities could put Meryl Streep to shame. The suspense and tension as Pierce and his accomplice, Robert Algar, work for a solid year on their plan is riveting. Naturally, when the heist takes place, even the most careful plans have to change with unforeseen circumstances. Will they get away with it? Read it and see.
The author puts us in the skins of Victorian people of the time. For instance, the police department is only 25 years old. London citizens were accustomed to being very hands-on when a crime is committed. Not like today when one's first thought is to call the police.
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By D on February 13, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Crichton's writing skills are truly amazing. After you read other books written by this famous author, you will not believe that this book has been written by him. The reason that I say this, is because when I started reading the first few pages, I thought I had ordered the wrong book. With an old English writing style, you will be amazed at how he can use various different writing styles, and still produce a fantastic book.

The story is exciting in its own right, but Crichton takes it to a whole new level.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Drawing heavily from court records and testimony, Chrichton's novel of historical fiction recreates the ingenious planning and execution of perhaps the most famous crime in British history. It's a novel in a very loose sense of the word, since throughout the book, Chrichton stops the proceedings to explain Victorian social customs for several pages at a time. But this is not a complaint at all, for the details on dog fighting, rats, gender roles, fear of premature burial, chimney sweeps, tipping servants, the Crimean War, safecracking, and most importantly urbanization and railroads, are all integral to the crime, and fascinating historical tidbits in their own right.
Central to the entire crime is the understanding that in the 1855, there was no such thing as dynamite or other explosives, so safes really were impregnable without keys or unlimited to time to pick them. Thus, the robbery of the monthly gold shipment that traveled by rail to France to pay for the Crimean War was deemed inconceivable, as opening the safes required four keys which were held in three separate locations. However, along comes Edward Pierce, a safecracker and master con artist who wanted that gold. The book tells how using an incredible array of scams, assistants and associates, misdirection, boldness, and quick thinking, he obtains copies of the four keys and embarks on the theft of the century. Crichton does this is a fairly documentary style for the most part, however the dialogue amongst the criminals sparkles with period underworld slang (all of which he stops to explain).
The story is recounted with continual reference to the trial, so its clear from the get go that the plot was successful, yet somehow the plotters were caught.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Edward Pierce is a gentleman rogue, a man perfectly suited to Queen Victoria's England. He's as clever as Sherlock Holmes, but he puts his wits to work at committing crimes instead of solving them. In this time and place where railway travel is relatively new, he targets a London bank's regular shipments of gold bullion - by rail, and by sea - to Paris, and sets about planning and arranging a heist that will give him fabulous wealth for the rest of his days.

Michael Crichton's technothrillers, as much as I enjoy them, often suffer from wooden characters. This book most definitely does not. Pierce, the surprisingly (sometimes infuriatingly) engaging hero/villian, is beautifully written; and the cast of characters surrounding him comes colorfully alive, even for those who play relatively minor roles. The dialog written in dialect and the wealth of historical and cultural detail add texture, and the plot works well; but it's the characters that make this story such a pleasure to read.
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