Fear on the Phantom Special (Railway Detective)

Written by Edward Marston
Review by Nancy Henshaw

Lake District, Halloween 1861. Passengers have boarded The Phantom Special expecting thrills on a railway journey that will take them through woodland notorious for strange sights and weird happenings. On this darkest of nights ten years ago, the local blacksmith vanished, and only his clothes were ever found: any excursion arranged by reckless young Alex Piper is sure to be exciting. When they are halted by a grotesque figure wreathed in flame, Alex leaps from his carriage to confront it and disappears. Is it a jape, misfortune or tragedy? Local police organise an extensive search with no result, and Lord Culverhouse demands an investigation by London’s Scotland Yard. Inspector Colbeck and Sergeant Leeming disembark from their mighty long railway journey to confront the local inhabitants and possible suspects: the bad-tempered doctor, the bookseller-poet; and Alex’s women – his embittered long-time girlfriend and his charming bride-to-be. Colbeck must enter the wood like Alex. It is the darkest of nights and the lanterns that should be available have been emptied of oil. This is a story with baffling contradictory evidence, convincing characters and lots of lively dialogue. To say the author is on top form would be unfair. In my experience, he is never anything else.