Murder at Deviation Junction

Written by Andrew Martin
Review by Gwen Sly

An amateur footballer has seriously injured a goalkeeper at a friendly match on the railway grounds in York and railway detective Jim Stringer is in the Iron town of Middlesborough to arrest him.

It is December 1909 and snowing heavily; on his return journey home, the train hits a frozen drift and, on clearing the line, a body is discovered in a disused cabin. It looks to be a suicide but it is the start of the steam detective’s most dangerous case to date.

This is Andrew Martin’s latest book in his Jim Stringer series, but the title, Murder at Deviation Junction, although not an issue with railway enthusiasts, may be misconstrued in the less well-informed 21st century. Mr Martin’s knowledge of steam engines is not to be doubted and I felt that I knew the train journey from York to Middlesborough, change at Whitby, intimately after reading the book. The blighted landscape, littered with mine workings and huge blast furnaces bringing muck and money to the industrialised north-eastern towns, is well described.

The murder mystery at times seems secondary to the author’s tangible interest in the world of magnificent iron monsters but it is rhythmically inserted and the characters are brought to life against this backdrop of steam.