Published by Allison & Busby
19 June 2014.
19 June 2014.
In the middle of the 19th Century, Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck of Scotland Yard has been given a new title by the newspapers of the time. It is the Railway Detective, because of his knowledge and love of railways and his success in solving the crimes surrounding this relatively new means of transport. A former barrister, Colbeck is a cultured, sophisticated man, immaculately dressed and able to move in the highest circles. His investigations are supported by his sergeant, Victor Leeming, who dislikes railway travel and has an even greater dislike of being forced to leave his wife and two sons and travel the length and breadth of the countryside to solve railway related crimes. Colbeck is recently married and also reluctant to leave his wife, but he has the advantage that his wife, Madeleine, is the daughter of a retired engine driver and can sometimes contribute to solving Colbeck's cases, as long as Colbeck's Superintendent is unaware of it. Madeleine is a talented artist who specialises in painting trains and has her own passion for the railway. Colbeck and Leeming have a tense relationship with their superior, Superintendent Edward Tallis. An ex-army officer who lives alone and has no interest in anything but his job, Tallis despises those police officers who wish to spend time with their wives and families.
The Railway Detective series has been running for over ten years and the thirteen short stories in Inspector Colbeck's Casebook span much of that period. The stories do not all involve murder, but also theft, abduction and, in one of my personal favourites, The Missionary, a very plausible and heartless con man. There are eleven books in the Railway Detective series and for readers who like to read a series in order this is probably not the best place to start, but for other readers, such as myself, who enjoy the Inspector Colbeck books, this set of short stories is a great treat. I especially admired the way the author has used the short story format to elaborate upon certain aspects of the main characters that would slow the action in a full-length novel. We discover that Victor Leeming is not just being fretful when he has to spend a long time away from home, because his two sons demonstrably do need his firm hand to keep them out of mischief. Also we see a new side to Superintendent Tallis: not just a relentless taskmaster, jealous of Colbeck's popularity in the press, but also Tallis as a hard-working, conscientious policeman who can make a generous gesture to a down-on-his-luck soldier; and Tallis as a lonely man made vulnerable by bereavement. It is also fun to see Madeleine Colbeck greeted with admirstion as an artist, while her off-duty husband's fame is discounted.
Inspector Colbeck's Casebook is a thoroughly enjoyable book, packed with interesting characters and fascinating snippets of information about the Victorian railways.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Edward Marston was born and brought up in South Wales. A full-time writer for over thirty years, he has worked in radio, film, television and the theatre and is a former chairman of the Crime Writers' Association. Prolific and highly successful, he is equally at home writing children's books or literary criticism, plays or biographies.
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher. She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames. Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.
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