cover image A Christmas Railway Mystery

A Christmas Railway Mystery

Edward Marston. Allison & Busby, $16.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7490-2148-1

Insp. Robert Colbeck (aka the Railway Detective) has a gruesomely fascinating murder to solve in Marston’s uneven 15th entry in his Victorian mystery series (after The Circus Train Conspiracy). Shortly before Christmas 1860, a headless corpse is found in the Swindon erecting shop, “where the multiple parts of a locomotive were fitted carefully together,” of the Great Western Railway. Tattoos identify the body as that of Frank Rodman, a foundry worker. There’s no obvious motive for the killing, and even less of one for the removal of the head, which eventually reappears in horrific circumstances. The local police ask Scotland Yard to send Colbeck, a former barrister whose cases are all connected in some manner with the railways of the period. Colbeck methodically interviews those who might have wanted Rodman dead, but the main story line is diluted by an extraneous and contrived subplot involving the abduction of Colbeck’s superior that serves only to showcase the lead’s acumen. The solution to the murder doesn’t do justice to the intriguing puzzle. (Nov.)