The Stationmaster’s Farewell

Written by Edward Marston
Review by Geoffrey Harfield

If you like a Victorian detective whodunit set in a railway background, largely around Exeter (UK) St David’s GWR train station, then this is for you. Excellently developed characters, a stationmaster’s body, a pompous bishop, Scotland Yard detectives, and a station buffet waitress, Dorcas, who figures as the central character – all enrich the story. The set-up is the apparent murder of the stationmaster under a Guy Fawkes bonfire on the cathedral green. The bishop, far too big for his boots, takes it as a personal affront. There is a despicable suspect (and his moll), always one step ahead of the police, tantalising by often showing himself. Many smaller characters are important to this book, adding to its verity.

Sub-plots, which at first seem to have little to do with the main story, later add richness to the mix. One of the London detectives is to be married shortly, and his London fiancée appears with her father, who welcomes the escape his own from romantic entanglements. The book is written in immaculate Victorian dialogue and is refreshing in its portrayal of grace and loyalties, where characters are sensitive to others’ feelings. Continuous plot development and introduction of subsidiary characters all keep the hunt for the murderer alive.

An unforeseen twist ending follows when Dorcas, who has given a home to the dead stationmaster’s canary, finds evidence which leads the hunt in an entirely different direction. Well-rounded tidying up follows with the first suspect exonerated, but three more are accused of murder. The story ends with a happy wedding of the detective and his London fiancée. An enjoyable whodunit. The Stationmaster’s Farewell is the tenth in prolific writer Edward Marston’s Railway Detective series.