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Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Iron Horse by Edward Marston

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting: England, 1854

First Sentence: The accident could have happened to anyone but it was much more likely to befall Reginald Hibbert.

This novel is the fourth in Marston's Inspector Robert Colbeck series.

Inspector Robert Colbeck is known to the public as the Railway Detective.  Whenever a crime occurs involving the railways, Inspector Colbeck is requested by the railway operators.

Early one morning, at Crewe station, a macabre discovery is made by an unlucky porter.  While attempting to lift a hat box, he drops it to the platform.  Out rolls a human head.  And Inspector Colbeck is called to the scene.

It is just a few days until Derby Day at the famous Epsom Downs.  This year there are three horses favored to win the race.  Inspector Colbeck finds that the owners of all three horses have ties to the hatbox and its gristly contents.  Lord Hendry originally purchased the box as a gift for his mistress, Kitty Lavender.  Hamilton Fido is an unscrupulous bookmaker, and Kitty's current beau. And, Brian Dowd once was the murdered man's employer.

All three owners are sure that their horse will win the derby.  Will one of them resort to murder to improve his chances of victory?  Or is there someone else who has a motive for murder?

Marston's characters and his wonderful dialog make this novel a very pleasant read.  Inspector Colbeck patiently gathers the clues.  His supervisor, Superintendent Tallis hounds him to make a quick arrest.  Colbeck is aided by his stalwart partner, Sergeant Leeming.  And, of course, Colbeck's sweetheart, Madeline Andrews, adds a woman's touch to the investigation.

Over all, a pleasant day at the races and a very satisfying read.  I recommend it.

The Iron Horse

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