The Last Train to Scarborough – Andrew Martin

And so I come to the end of my Jim Stringer catching up process, with this one, which turns out to be quite different from the previous books[1]. The book opens with Jim regaining consciousness on a boat. He remembers having been in Scarborough, but not much else, and his head hurts. And the Captain wants to know how Jim came to be where he is now, emphasising his point with a pistol.

And so Jim slowly recalls what happened over the last few days. There was the interview which could lead him to a new career as a solicitor. Jim’s not keen, but his ambitious wife Lydia wants to “get on”, so Jim’s going with the flow. Then there’s the old “one last case” thing, where he’s sent undercover to a Scarborough guest house to try to find out what happened to a railwayman who stayed there and disappeared.

As usual, there’s a lot of misdirection and confusion with the strange collection of characters at the Paradise making sure that Jim doesn’t work out what’s going on until things get really dangerous. And he’s still got to deal with the Captain…

While the actual crime and detection element of this one was lower key than some of the earlier books in the series, it was perhaps the most satisfying read – the structure of alternating between Jim’s gradually returning memories and his peril at sea worked very well, and it was nice to see Jim making a decision for himself at the end of the story. Even if it did fit in perfectly with Lydia’s plans.

[1] And not just becasue it’s the first one I’ve bought in hardcover…