A Christmas Railway Mystery (Railway Detective)

Written by Edward Marston
Review by Nancy Henshaw

A headless body with bound wrists and ankles lies in the workshop of the Great Western Railway at Swindon and is identified by its tattoos as Frank Rodman, the lead singer in St Mark’s Church choir and husband of lovely Betty, the woman all the boys courted when they were young. Surely this horrific crime was not committed by a rejected suitor after so long? Railway Detective Colbeck, a notably successful investigator, has been put in charge of the case under Superintendent Tallis, but when Scotland Yard becomes involved, he is obliged to work with an old rival (temporarily promoted Superintendent) Grosvenor, a man appointed above his ability and hence looking for a scapegoat whenever his own schemes go awry. The dreadful crime must be solved within the few days remaining before Christmas. If not, all these officers will find themselves working on Christmas Day!

The possible suspects are reduced to five whose motives would encompass most of the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Avarice, Lust, Envy and Greed. The grisly appearance of the head on the altar of St Mark’s seems to direct suspicion towards a known outspoken atheist. The whole enquiry is thrown into disarray by the kidnapping of Tallis, whose nasty threatened fate shocks the reader. The author of this lively historical thriller is to be congratulated yet again on his unique blending of crime and railways.