Murder on the Brighton Express

Murder on the Brighton Express by Edward Marston. After the disappointing previous book in the Railway Detective series, this adventure is a slight improvement in that it at least keeps much of the focus near an actual railway. Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and his Sergeant Victor Leeming face many obstacles in this case set in bustling 1854. First, they must convince an antagonistic Inspector General of Railways, Captain Ridgeon, and a disbelieving and mocking press corps that a head on collision between the Brighton Express and a cargo train was a deliberate act of derailing the passenger train by another party or parties and not an accident caused by the recklessness of the driver. Then, they must prove to their demanding boss at Scotland Yard, Superintendent Tallis, that the criminal was not just seeking to cause mayhem and damage to the train in general, but was in fact targeting a specific passenger on board. The dashing Colbeck’s prime candidates are an executive of the railway line and an outspoken Member of Parliament, both known to regularly take the Express home on Friday evenings and also known to have enemies in abundance.

Although the pace of the book is quite good as is the interplay between the primary characters, Colbeck, Leeming, Tallis, and Colbeck’s girlfriend, Maddy Andrews, but there is no special spark present. Rather there are some nagging problems with both plot and character development. Colbeck fails to provide compelling evidence for his “specific target” theory, and though he is proved correct in the end, even then his success is due less to diligent investigative work or exceptional deductions, but rather to mistakes made by his adversary. Further, the criminal seems to act out-of-character for his profession, makes poor choices, and is only captured by chance and by Colbeck taking unnecessary risks. This story does give readers more insight in Leeming’s character, but the relationship between Colbeck and Andrews does not move forward at all. Regular readers of this series will again find this story satisfactory at best.

Fans of railway mysteries may want to consider Andrew Martin’s more gritty series featuring Jim Stringer and set in the 1900s.


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