Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Blackpool Highflyer by Andrew Martin

In the hot summer of 1905 Jim Stringer has work to do. For many the factories and mills of Halifax are closing for a short holiday and it's off to Scarborough and Blackpool. Jim is a fireman and it's his job to man the excursion trains for the summer break. However on one trip to Blackpool the train hits a millstone on the line and is derailed. Not convinced this is an idle act of vandalism, Jim thinks the Hind's Mill excursion train to Blackpool has been targeted specifically. There are several people with motives, but is Jim right or is he just chasing shadows?

This is the second book in the Jim Stringer series and immediately precedes 'The Lost Luggage Porter' and sees Jim still working as a fireman before his career change to the railway police. For those of you who have read 'Lost Luggage Porter' (or even my review of it) you may find this book jars with your knowledge of Jim and how he came to move to York. I for one was scratching my head over it all the way to the end of the book. I think it is definitely a case of reading these books in order. Therefore I recommend to anyone who hasn't tried these books to go and read them in order, starting with 'The Necropolis Railway', to avoid confusion.

Despite the slight lack of continuity between books, this was still and fairly enjoyable romp. In some ways the story reflects the restrained characteristics we think are typical of the Victorian/Edwardian periods. Jim is fairly down to earth, doesn't pick fights, goes to work, enjoys a drink and has a passion for his railway magazines. Often the heroes of crime fiction have awful foibles and depressing lives. They are womanisers, or alcoholics or bad parents. Jim has none of these foibles. He seems a pretty pleasant character with an equally pleasant wife. If anything the fact his wife cannot cook and is veering towards the suffragette cause is perhaps the most controversial thing about Jim and his family. In some ways this makes him a unique character in the crime fiction genre.

There’s not a lot more that can be said about this book. A book to pass the time rather than a 'must read' perhaps.

*3 stars*

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