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Don't be sidetracked--it's worth reading!
on 12 December 2007
Edward Marston's Railway Detective, Robert Colbeck, is dedicated to solving major crimes on the British railways. With his previous two books featuring Colbeck, Marston established a police officer/investigator who shows great promise and at the same time historian/novelist Marston treats us to some great railroad lore and knowledge. It's Victorial England (later 19th century) and the country is moving forward, at the speed of the train and the Industrial Revolution. It's an excellent choice of historical periods and subject for Marston who's success as a historical mystery writer took him to much earlier times.
In "The Railway Viaduct," however, Marston seems to have bogged down with his scenario, almost as if he's stretching for a storyline to fit the era. The book opens when witnesses see, passing over the Sankey Viaduct, not only the train, but a body being tossed out of the window, to a sure death far below. Good investigating skills come into play and Colbeck and his assistant Leeming make great gains and the hunt leads them to France where an English company is laying tracks for a major railway there. Marston weaves in some complications which enhance the story and slowly and with great ingenuity Colbeck solves the mystery.
Some elements, however, haven't changed from his first book ("The Railway Detective"), such as his romance with the daughter of a train engineer. She also doubles as a character of convenience in helping the case move forward. But enough already. After three books, Colbeck, claim the prize or move on! Even his nemesis the superintendent begins to be tiresome (why do detectives invariably have "issues" with their bosses--Morse, Dalgliesh, Jury, to name three). And after all these Marston books this reader is about to give up on the stilted, stilted, stilted dialogue. (Put some life and reality into those lines, Sir!)
Still, however, I won't give up. I like historical mysteries and Marston rarely disappoints me (well, except for his dialogue!). If a fourth Railway Detective book is in the making, one hopes that he'll be back on the right track.