Monday, 21 April 2014

The Iron Horse - Edward Marston

I picked this up because it looked like a fun Victorian-set detective story. A severed head in a hatbox is found at Crewe railway station, and Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck is called in to investigate. He soon discovers that the murder is inextricably linked to the upcoming Derby horserace, and events come to a head at the race in question.

The general flavour of the book is good – there are nice little details that ground it in time and place, especially the colourful descriptions of the crowds attending the races on the downs. The characters themselves, however, feel a little too much like cardboard figures rather than fully-developed individuals. Part of that might be because The Iron Horse is the fourth in a series, and shortcuts are made in describing characters who, the author presumes, the reader has already met in the preceding novels. Coming to this one without that backing, the off-hand references to past events in characters’ lives did little more than make me feel a bit excluded.

The plot itself feels a little contrived and confused – even though I only finished reading it last night, I’m having trouble remembering exactly why the murder took place. The vacillation between the three prime suspects, however, prevents the reader fixing on the killer within the first couple of chapters, and does show the process of information-gathering and adaptation of theories within that pretty well.

It’s a nice enough story, a little lazily done, but pleasant enough for a light read.

Next up: Fire, by Kristin Cashore

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