Keeping him on the right track

2008-09-03 00:00

Certainly a novelty in the field of detective fiction! The Independent calls Andrew Martin “The best railway sleuth there is”, and one has to confess that the category isn’t exactly spilling with competitors.

If you enjoy a décor of Edwardian Yorkshire trains, their little puffing locomotives and creaking carriages lovingly described, topical billboards and advertisements, platform crowds waiting for the 11.15 to Scarborough, the Fahrenheit temperatures for a famously hot summer, and the juicy Yorkshire accents of the “upper” working class, you will certainly be entertained by Martin’s book.

For me the unique theme (one that has, I think, eluded detective fiction up to this point) is Detective Stringer’s reliance on an unwanted helpmate — his wife. Mr Stringer is most reluctant to bring “the wife” and her insolent repartee into rural Yorkshire, and there is a nice, witty tension between them. Mrs Stringer is feisty, good in bed (as is none too subtly hinted) and considers male logic to be so moronic that no case can be solved without a sound dose of feminine intuition. This she goes more than halfway to proving, and so gives the book its sprightliness — even more than the fine evocation of 1912 Yorkshire.

Bill Bizley

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