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on 23 April 2017
Another good Jim stringer book
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on 16 July 2012
Having read the Necropolis Railway and felt a bit disappointed by it, I was a bit reluctant to read another one so soon after. Having not been able to buy a copy of the Blackpool Highflyer (book 2), I opted for The Lost Luggage Porter.

This book is much better than the Necropolis Railway. There is alot more going on and a little bit less emphasis on train terminology. The book flows very well and it holds your attention because you wonder what Jim Stringer is basically letting himself in for.

I like the character of Jim's wife even though she's not actually in this story a great deal, she does come across as somebody with a good brain who wants to do something with it.

Good read, which I would recommend.
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on 26 July 2006
The third in Andrew Martin's Edwardian era 'Jim Stringer' novels is the finest so far. Like the earlier books, The Necropolis Railway and The Blackpool Highflyer, this is less an out-and-out thriller than a study of a period and place: the evocation of the time and the landscapes that the naive hero passes through (the grim back streets of York, the countryside beyond the city, the boat train to Paris) is extraordinarliy vivid and intense. Jim Stringer is an almost Palin-esque Northern train obsessive, albeit one who appears to be growing up a bit in this book, even if his wife remains the sharper of the two: this relationship allows for some delicious social comedy, especially in the episode when Jim's father visits the couple and is exposed to his daughter-in-law's progressive attitudes. Furthermore, Andrew Martin has a truly Dickensian eye for the 'killer detail' - the apparently casual, off-centre observation that illuminates a lost world in a tiny phrase. These books are much more than genre fiction and deserve a far wider public.
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on 26 February 2012
I like Andrew Martin's detective. I am not a great fan of the genre, but this one appeals to me. He is not really a maverick or outsider in the usual style, apart from an over-fondness for railways and a tendency to act or speak his mind when it might be wiser not to do so. The storylines might not be particularly sophistocated, but what makes these books work is the atmosphere Martin creates, the array of odd yet recognisable characters, and the earthy sense of humour. The Edwardian era is conjured up without excessive detail but with just the right balance of description and an authentic-feeling dialogue. It probably helps to be fond of railways and steam engines, but it is not essential. I think the best works have been the Lost Luggage Porter and the Last Train to Scarborough, and I am enjoying Somme Stations at the moment.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 December 2015
You do not have to be a lover of railways, Edwardian mysteries or familiar with York to enjoy this book, but it would help. The third of the author’s series about Jim Stringer, Railway Detective, opens with the narrator arriving in York to join Chief Inspector Saul Weatherill’s team of North Eastern Railway Company detectives who are looked down upon by members of the ‘real’ police force. Being new to policing and to the area, Stringer is assigned to a secretive underground investigation to gain information about a gang of robbers and murderers who are plaguing the railway.

Stringer’s real passion in life is driving trains but this ambition has been curtailed after he crashed a train at Halifax station. His wife, Lydia, an enterprising suffragist, is expecting their first baby and the detective’s mood swings between the optimism of his family life, worry about his wife’s behavior and condition, and pessimism about the job he has undertaken, largely at Lydia’s behest.

The author’s knowledge of early 20th-century railways is beyond question but occasionally the detail becomes somewhat claustrophobic. The characters are broadly drawn but, as the book continued, I found myself getting more engaged with the investigation and with the tensions between Lydia [‘the wife’] and Stringer’s Conservative-supporting father, a retired-butcher, who has a traditional opinion of the role of women.

As Stringer’s underground investigation continues his ethical and moral concerns, allied to his inexperience, are very evident. He must prove himself by taking part in the gang’s criminal activities but is unsure whether he has overstepped the mark and whether and when his railway police colleagues will come to his rescue. He seems constantly to be on the point of making arrests but is outnumbered and without weaponry. There are times when it seems almost becomes impossible for the gang-members not to see through his disguise [a dead man’s suit and a pair of glasses without lenses] but the plot, and its twists and turns, just about convinced this reader.

After setting most of the story in and around York, once again the period detail is impressive [Weatherill tells Stringer that ‘York is the biggest and busiest station in the country. It is the administrative centre of the company, its geographical centre and the biggest employer of men by far. Shall I tell you one thing about York that isn't to do with the railway? Well, I can't!’ and the Rowntree’s factory ‘was making its cocoa smell, which somehow wanted you to make a call of nature’], Martin takes the gang to Paris and I found this part of the book much weaker – the trip seemed to be included in order to compare continental stations and trains with those back home.

As the plot resolves Stringer faces a moral dilemma about how much of his underground story he should tell to his boss. The contrast between the committed and enthusiastic Lydia and her naïve and dour husband is described with not a little humour. However, the gang leaders remained rather too imprecisely drawn for any real tension to be devloped and the ending was somewhat predictable.

I suspect that these books would make a fascinating radio series where the limited characterisation could be fleshed out with appropriate Yorkshire and other accents. If I come across other books in the series I would buy them but am not sure that I will actively seek them out.
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on 22 January 2013
I am not a railway enthusiast nor am I particularly fond of crime fiction. But I have read the first 3 Jim Stringer books one after the other (the perils of buying and reading on Kindle!). Why?

First, Andrew Martin writes really well and his powers of description are fabulous. He brings every milieu vividly to life, and with a few words can describe characters so that you would recognise them if you met them.

Second, the first person voice allows him to show off his Edwardian English. I bought The Necropolis Railway because I heard Mr Martin on Radio 4 enthusing about Edwardian slang, and he certainly has a splendid grasp of the subject.

Third, I can't help but be drawn to his main character. Jim is not really likeable but he is terribly believable: stubborn, geeky, more than a bit odd. I particularly liked the way in this book he prevaricates and puts off what he knows he needs to do until he is absolutely driven to it - very realistic, I felt.

The plots are really quite thin and because Jim (not the world's clearest thinker, unlike his wife) is telling you about them, they mostly seem even murkier than they are. But I go on reading for the sheer enjoyment of the recreation of the historical context.

I suppose I enjoy these books because they are really well-crafted historical fiction, and not for the crime or railway aspects!
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on 28 April 2012
This set of books get better as you read each one.
As a mainly "just before I go to sleep" reader this series is ideal. The chapters are not too long and the plots are never too complex.
Major literary works they are not but as a window on Edwardian life they seem pretty accurate and as a railway enthusiast the background settings are perfect.
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on 10 March 2013
Having recently read Andrew Martin's chatty history of the tube, 'Underground, Overground', I went back to his Jim Stringer 'Steam Detective' series and re- read number three in this. 'The Lost Luggage Porter' was just as good as I remember it from the first time round. The Edwardian 'voice' of Stringer is really well done, the atmosphere (drab York, exotic Paris) is cleverly and carefully constructed, and the characters (especially the psychopathic criminal, Valentine Sampson) are effectively developed. This is a great and unusual crime series. I would recommend beginning with 'The Necropolis Railway' and reading through the series so that you can see how Stringer and his circumstances change and how he and the world around him develop.
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on 17 October 2012
Having read the Baghdad Railway Club and enjoyed it I started to read the series in chronological order: I am enjoying them and will make my way through them all in time. The Lost Luggage Porter like its companions is not a thriller but is also not a who-dun-nit. Rather it is a tale that unfolds and lets the reader enjoy a slice of life evolving and a crime being solved - a good yarn which develops slowly and leads to a tense conclusion with all to human and weak characters.

Other reviewers have bemoaned the emphasis on social description and railway minutiae but in reality they are what makes the stories hang together. My main reason for writing this review, however, is to highlight the fact that along with all these detailed descriptions of life and society at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries he has made one howler. He describes the use of one pound notes in the proceeds of the main robbery. Between the banking Act of 1833 and the introduction of Treasury notes in 1914 at the start of the First World War there were no One Pound notes! The smallest legal tender paper money in that period were Five Pound notes.
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on 24 January 2014
This third novel in the series is the best of the three, and a thoroughly enjoyable piece of detective fiction.
Andrew Martin has ironed out his one weakness, namely plot construction. This novel is nearly all plot, and a good plot at that - gripping and subtly tense, but entirely plausible.
Mr. Martin excels at characterisation; through Jim Stringer's words and thoughts, we get to know (and like) our central character even more intimately, and again we can appreciate and enjoy the admirable personality of 'the wife', whose relationship with Stringer very effectively adds humanity to them both.
The railway minutiae are toned down in this novel - perhaps a welcome change in the eyes of a vocal minority of Mr. Martin's readers - but the world of the railways is still an ever-present backdrop that anchors the story nicely.
Were it not for the fact that I'm not convinced by the character of Edwin Lund (an important character), I'd award five stars to this book unhesitatingly. But it's only a cigarette-paper's width away from top marks.
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