Martin, Andrew - 'Death on a Branch Line'
The fifth adventure of Jim Stringer, Steam Detective (that's a detective who started out driving steam trains, not a steam-powered detective) is set in the hot summer of 1911. Jim is supposed to be organising a weekend away in Scarborough. Instead he talks to a condemned prisoner on York station and decides to spend his holiday weekend preventing a murder in a small village on a branch line. Because she's already arranged to leave their son with a friend his wife goes with him. At Adenwold Jim finds that most of the locals have gone to Scarborough, leaving the village deserted apart from a collection of suspicious visitors. Can Jim, or maybe his wife, work out which of the visitors in Adenwold is intent on murder?
As with the rest of the series to date, this is a solid and atmospheric story. Jim is a likeable character, meticulously recording every detail of the investigation along with virtually everything that goes through his head. It's a bit like reading a detective story written by Mr Pooter, albeit a competent Mr Pooter. There's great attention to class relationships - he's hampered by having some of his suspects being able to refuse to speak to him. Martin is very good on showing the differences between Edwardian and modern life. Travel is difficult, and communication is almost impossible, requiring extensive negotiation with an uncooperative telegraph operator; at one point the speed of response to message is a clue in itself.
All in all, an excellent but not flashy episode in an excellent but not flashy series.
Rik Shepherd, England