Murder at Deviation Junction – Andrew Martin

And here we are with another in the Jim Stringer – Steam Detective series. About three years have passed since the events of The Lost Luggage Porter. Jim’s still based at York station, and although he’s got an interview coming up that could result in his promotion to Sergeant, he’s not all that happy in his work. His immediate superior, Sergeant Shillito, doesn’t seem to like Jim much, and keeps him on trivial duties. Maybe he’s resentful that Jim got involved in a murder case as soon as he started on the job, or maybe he’s just the kind of guy who doesn’t like anyone much. And Jim still misses proper railway work – he’d love to get back to his former job as a fireman, or better still, a driver. But Jim’s wife Lydia isn’t keen on that – she wants Jim to progress in his career. If he gets that promotion, she’ll be able to hire someone to look after their three year old son Harry while she goes to work.

And it’s in the midst of all this that Jim once again more or less accidentally gets himself involved in a mystery. On his way back from singularly failing to arrest a man who had a bit of s fight with Shillito during a football match, his train is held up by snow, and while the line is being cleared, a body is found nearby. Lots of confusion follows, with Jim having a slight disagreement with Shillito before heading to London to talk to a slightly shifty railway journalist who had been on the train earlier. And from there, Jim and his new friend follow a suspicious character to the Scottish Highlands, where Jim finds out the truth about what happened on the Club Train. Naturally, this involves him narrowly avoiding being killed. Several times.

It’s all good fun, with yet more detail about trains and stations, and more of Jim’s usual naivety, which makes him such an engaging narrator. I’ve already started on the next in the series, and I’ll talk about that soon…