The Silk Train Murder

Written by Sharon Rowse
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

The debut of a new historical mystery series featuring English-gentleman-turned- detective John Landsdowne Granville, this turn-of-the-20th-century adventure is set in Vancouver, British Columbia, when imported Chinese silk worth more than Klondike gold is rushed across the continent to New York in specially designed trains.

Guarding these trains is a highly dangerous business, as Granville and his partner Sam Scott find out. On their first night they foil a sabotage attempt. And the second night’s discovery is the murdered body of the notorious Clive Jackson. There are suspects galore, as everyone in town seems to have had an altercation with the man, but only Sam is arrested. Granville wants to help his partner, especially when he learns a speedy trail is planned eleven days hence. But he’s new in town, knows no one, and even his partner is not cooperating.

The investigation takes Granville through the city’s brothels, opium dens, gambling joints and burlesque halls. He gets help from a saboteur who becomes a little brother, an opium lord, a medium, and street reporter. By adventure’s end, he might have found something more from the proper but chafing-at-the-restrictions-of-her-class Emily Turner.

The Silk Train Murder establishes its scene and details well, with a good ticking-clock pace and hero haunted by his guilt over a friend’s death as well as his loyalty to Sam and his sense of justice. He grows in character as he unfolds the mystery. Similarly, Emily, the “dreadfully bored” heiress, grows her own detective team, complete with Bess and George-like pal assistants who haunt tea rooms as Granville haunts opium dens.