The Last Train to Scarborough

Written by Andrew Martin
Review by Jasmina Svenne

March 1914. In what could be his last case before leaving the force to train as a lawyer, railway detective Jim Stringer has been ordered to go undercover in a seedy Scarborough lodging house (misnamed Paradise) to investigate the disappearance of the last railwayman to stay there overnight.

Along the way he has to deal with a disgruntled chief inspector who seems to be withholding information about the case; an overenthusiastic assistant with a passion for guns and the voluptuous and seductive landlady of Paradise, Amanda Rickerby.

The structure of this novel is clever, beginning with Jim waking up after the climax of the book in a dark, confined space on a shifting mound of coal with only fragmentary memories of the events leading up to this point. This device allows Martin to inform new readers and remind existing fans about Jim’s family, background and work colleagues in a natural way while he tries to piece together what happened.

The book can be read as a stand alone novel, though I suspect I might have cared more about the potential threat to Jim’s marriage from the ambitious, energetic Lydia if I had read the earlier novels in the series.