Timetable of Death

Written by Edward Marston
Review by Alan Cassady-Bishop

When the body of Vivian Quayle is discovered in an open grave in the Spondon village church, everyone is shocked. As he was a director of the Midland railway company and the local police are baffled, Inspector Colbeck of Scotland Yard, the “Railway Detective”, is called in. Shuttling between Derby, Spondon, Nottingham and London, Colbeck discovers that he needs to look deep into the background of the victim; a task made difficult by him being the archetypal virtuous businessman.

Soon, however, the inspector and his faithful Sergeant Leeming piece together the story of a darker, more unpleasant man. His bickering family has past secrets they want kept secret, he had a rival for the chairmanship of the railway, and he was strict with his staff. Colbeck has to dance around the local Police Superintendent, who resents Scotland Yard’s interference but soon digs deeper than the grave. Why was the body actually put in the grave of Cicely Peet, a much-loved local gentlewoman? What is the local gossip? And was there a link to the brutal murder of a Spondon labourer a few years past? After all, the village of Spondon was so small, it didn’t even have a railway station.

One of a great series, Timetable of Death is a classic example of a Victorian police detective story. Filled with period detail, the pace is steady and the plot is thick with suspects, solutions and clues. Marston has a real knack for blending detail, character and story with great skill. Reading this as a stand-alone case, the reader will be compelled to get further cases of the “Railway Detective”.