A Ticket to Oblivion
1858. Inspector Colbeck’s latest case involves the disappearance of a young lady, Imogen Burnhope, and her maid, travelling on a non-stop train to Oxford to stay with Imogen’s aunt and cousin, Emma. But they never arrive – it’s as if they’ve vanished into thin air. On the surface, it seems incredible. According to her father, Cabinet Minister Sir Marcus Burnhope, Imogen is supremely contented with her life. She is engaged to the ambitious MP Clive Tunnadine, a match which, he assures Colbeck, gives her entire family pleasure. Sir Marcus has no time for Colbecks’s awkward questions and slow, careful investigations, which he finds both intrusive and time-wasting. He wants immediate action. As Colbeck and Sergeant Leeming begin their inquiries, a very different picture of Imogen’s life begins to emerge, and Emma has some important information about what might have happened to her cousin. Then the ransom letter arrives, and soon Sir Marcus and Tunnadine’s insistence on being in on the action threatens to wreak everything.
I’m a fan of Edward Marston’s Inspector Colbeck detective series. I like the coolly heroic Colbeck and his slightly fuddy-duddy side-kick, Detective Sergeant Leeming. Their characters are well-rounded and believable; the author’s research into the workings of the railways is impeccable but never intrusive; and there are enough twists and turns of the plot to keep the reader involved and interested. And I always enjoy seeing unpleasant characters get their eventual comeuppance.
One small niggle: surely Sir Marcus would never refer to his daughter as ‘Imogen’ when speaking to subordinates like his coachman or Colbeck. It would always be ‘Miss Burnhope’; a lady’s first name was never bandied about, it was for intimates and family only.