I bought this book for two reasons. First, it looked like it might be interesting, and secondly, those nice Waterstone’s people had it in their “Try me for 99p” promotion, which was a bit of a bargain.
It’s the first in a series of novels billed Jim Stringer – Railway Detective. Jim Stringer narrates the story, and immediately draws the reader into his world. It’s 1903, and Jim is just arriving in London from his native Yorkshire to take a job with the Necropolis Railway. Jim’s a naive young man who’s fascinated by the railways, and this job is his chance to work towards becoming an engine driver.
But when he starts work, it’s clear that all is not as it should be. His co-workers all appear to loathe him on sight, and it seems his predecessor mysteriously disappeared. Jim tries to find out what’s going on, but his attempts at investigation lead him into deadly danger.
In the usual way of good mysteries, there are some good red herrings, and even a little romance.
But what makes the book worth reading is the atmosphere. Andrew Martin has clearly done his research, and evokes the world of steam trains in Edwardian England in superb detail. And there’s lots of detail – Jim tells us more than we probably need to know about steam trains and the contents of Railway Magazine, but there’s something endearing about his innocence. Jim’s not the greatest of detectives, and there’s a lot of humour along the way, but I was left wanting more. And as it happens, there is more to come…
 Historical note: this was a real railway company. See this article from Fortean Times