The Railway Detective’s Christmas Case

Written by Edward Marston
Review by Alan Cassady-Bishop

It’s December 1864, and an excursion train is forced to halt its journey through the Malvern Hills. Getting out to see what the delay is, the organizer of the outing, Cyril Hubbleday, is shot cleanly in the head by a sniper. Another case for Inspector Colbeck and Sergeant Leeming, but the officious Superintendent Tallis insists on taking personal charge, for reasons of his own. What follows is a frustrating delve into the personal lives of the denizens of the rural town of Great Malvern and the industrial darkness of Oldbury in the Black Country, both high- and low-born. The police are working against the clock as a local magnate is eager for a return to peace while the officers want to return to their families for Christmas. Once again, Marston manages to paint a vivid picture of Victorian England, its railways and its social issues. There are plenty of diversions and characters, lively and relatable. The setting itself is well described and acts as a fine backdrop to a fast-moving plot, the result being satisfying.