The Blackpool Highflyer – Andrew Martin

Having left it a while before getting round to writing about The Necropolis Railway, I thought I’d get straight on with this sequel. Indeed, it was reading this that reminded me to review the previous book.

A few years have passed and Jim Stringer is now married to his former landlady. He’s working as a fireman[1] on the Yorkshire and Lancashire Railway, and living in Halifax. He’s still hoping to work his way up to driving engines, but for now he’s pretty happy.

But when Jim is assigned to an excursion train to Blackpool, he’s once again thrown into a mystery. Someone has placed a millstone on the track, and while the driver manages to stop the train in time to prevent a complete disaster, a passenger dies.

Jim is determined to find out who was responsible, and sets about it in his still rather naive way. We meet a fascinating collection of characters – railway workers, ventriloquists, a socialist agitator and mill workers.

As with the previous book, it’s the atmosphere that drew me in and kept me turning pages. And as before, there’s a lot of detail about steam engines and the running of the railways. Some readers might not like that sort of thing, but I enjoyed it – it’s the way Jim describes these apparently irrelevant details that makes him an endearing character.

There’s a third book in the series, and I’ll be getting hold of it soon.

[1] That’s the guy who shovels coal on a steam engine, not someone who puts out fires, in case there’s any confusion