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The Necropolis Railway: A Jim Stringer Mystery (Jim Stringer Mysteries) Paperback – January 15, 2007
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
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!
Wrong. The narrative - I assume there is a story in there somewhere - is packed in strange jargon which may be understood by railway buffs, but is incomprehensible to me. And there's no help from the author, who makes no attempt whatsoever to explain these arcane terms to 21st Century readers.
So far as I could understand the goings-on, the protagonist is young, self-absorbed, ignorant, and utterly uninteresting even as he arrives in bustling London to take on a new job.
He seemed to aspire to something he called "life on the footplate" - but I was so utterly bored by this book that I never found out what that meant. I quit reading somewhere around page 50.
My copy of the book has glowing blurbs on the cover. Simon Winchester said, "Guaranteed to make the flesh creep and the skin crawl ..."
And the eyes glaze over.