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The Excursion Train

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Set in 19th century England, a bustling crowd boards the Great Western Railway Excursion train on their way to an illegal championship fight in Maidenhead. As the rowdiness of the crowd increases, the train's guard fears "for the safety of his rolling stock." The last thing he expects to find is the brutal murder of one of his passengers, Jake Bransby. Once the shocking di Set in 19th century England, a bustling crowd boards the Great Western Railway Excursion train on their way to an illegal championship fight in Maidenhead. As the rowdiness of the crowd increases, the train's guard fears "for the safety of his rolling stock." The last thing he expects to find is the brutal murder of one of his passengers, Jake Bransby. Once the shocking discovery of the body is made, Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and his assistant Inspector Leeming, are called to the scene. Faced with what initially appears to be a motiveless murder Colbeck is perplexed by the murder weapon, a noose -- until he later discovers Bransby previously worked as a public executioner. However, the more he delves into the case the more mysterious it seems to become. After a second death by noose takes place Colbeck knows he must act quickly. Can he catch the murderer before more lives are lost? Rich in historical detail The Excursion Train will hold you captivated from beginning to end.


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Set in 19th century England, a bustling crowd boards the Great Western Railway Excursion train on their way to an illegal championship fight in Maidenhead. As the rowdiness of the crowd increases, the train's guard fears "for the safety of his rolling stock." The last thing he expects to find is the brutal murder of one of his passengers, Jake Bransby. Once the shocking di Set in 19th century England, a bustling crowd boards the Great Western Railway Excursion train on their way to an illegal championship fight in Maidenhead. As the rowdiness of the crowd increases, the train's guard fears "for the safety of his rolling stock." The last thing he expects to find is the brutal murder of one of his passengers, Jake Bransby. Once the shocking discovery of the body is made, Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and his assistant Inspector Leeming, are called to the scene. Faced with what initially appears to be a motiveless murder Colbeck is perplexed by the murder weapon, a noose -- until he later discovers Bransby previously worked as a public executioner. However, the more he delves into the case the more mysterious it seems to become. After a second death by noose takes place Colbeck knows he must act quickly. Can he catch the murderer before more lives are lost? Rich in historical detail The Excursion Train will hold you captivated from beginning to end.

30 review for The Excursion Train

  1. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm

    The railway detective’s second outing is a fine piece of gentle Victorian crime detection – not that the crimes are all that gentle, nor their reason, but Edward Marston has a measured hand, a fine sense of the era, a good grasp of the impact of technology in Victorian London and of the social consequences of the new transportation technology. London in 1850s was going through rapid development, population growth and expansion, the shift toward suburbia was beginning and the effects of rapid ind The railway detective’s second outing is a fine piece of gentle Victorian crime detection – not that the crimes are all that gentle, nor their reason, but Edward Marston has a measured hand, a fine sense of the era, a good grasp of the impact of technology in Victorian London and of the social consequences of the new transportation technology. London in 1850s was going through rapid development, population growth and expansion, the shift toward suburbia was beginning and the effects of rapid industrialisation being felt. Trains were making the country smaller, as travel times reduced and the Home Counties in particular drawn into the city’s daily life. In this instance, we find ourselves in the world of prize fighting (that is, illegal bareknuckle boxing where there were vast sums to be made and lost), with some of mid-Victorian England’s most important sports stars (the modern world of football celebrity is far from the first instance of sports stardom) when a down at heel cobbler is found dead in the compartment of an excursion train – prize fights were staged in the country to minimise risk of arrest. DI Robert Colbeck and his trusty sidekick Sergeant Lemming are called in to investigate – he has public profile as ‘the railway detective’ and the train company pressures the Metropolitan Police. Marston shows a deft and light touch sense of class politics in these stories – the corporate pressure for a particular police officer investigator, the pride that Caleb Andrews (Colbeck’s engine driver friend) takes in his work and his specialist knowledge and in his daughter’s insight to his work (the daughter who also just happens to be the dandy Colbeck’s romantic interest). He also has a powerful sense of social justice, but like his class awareness this is not heavy handed – resulting in sharp insight to the state of Victorian prisons and gender hierarchies, the nuances of market town life and economic precariousness. At heart, these are exceptionally good police procedurals that are fully enjoyable (I suspect) without even noticing the class politics of social justice elements. Marston crafts a fine plot, builds suspense and sets up just enough plot options to keep us uncertain of who might be the culprit until close to the end – and then gives us a cracking climax and denouement. On top of that, we get good characters, a sharp sense of the city and its environs, crisp social history and believable voices. This is some of the smartest historical crime fiction I know, and police procedurals are not my preferred form. Take a look, you’re not likely to be disappointed.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Leigh

    3.75 Stars!! A charming well written crime mystery that kept me entertained and interested to the end. I enjoyed the characters but hoping as the series develop they get a bit more depth. The mystery itself was intriguing and thought provoking! Will be reading the next book!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Edward Marston is a guilty pleasure. Simple, easy to read mysteries, perfect when you fancy an unchallenging but enjoyable read!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Scotland Yard and the Railway Detective are called in again, this time to investigate the garotting of a hangman on his way by train to a boxing match. Mr Marsden includes all sorts of period references to "the Fancy" including the origin of the phrase "up to scratch" which refers to the scratch in the centre of the ring where the match begins. He deals with the fact that such matches were illegal and that training sites were subject to raids by the authorities as were the sites of the matches t Scotland Yard and the Railway Detective are called in again, this time to investigate the garotting of a hangman on his way by train to a boxing match. Mr Marsden includes all sorts of period references to "the Fancy" including the origin of the phrase "up to scratch" which refers to the scratch in the centre of the ring where the match begins. He deals with the fact that such matches were illegal and that training sites were subject to raids by the authorities as were the sites of the matches themselves. That is just the beginning as we then learn about hangmen and the varying opinions on the usefulness of capital punishment as a deterrent to crime, the proceedings involved in a public hanging, and the methods available to a detective searching out the origins of a case. One interesting note is the way he has his characters angry about the injustice done to Nathan but the reluctance of people to look into the origins of the case. That's over and done with, they say. Nathan should never have been hanged and it's just another example of how unfair the system is and that is where they want to leave it since you can't bring Nathan back. Mr. Marsden is very good at giving us characters with whom we can empathise without having them portray feelings not present in the time period. I rather enjoy Superintendent Tallis in his ex-army ordering about. He has had to infiltrate a female into a totally male environment but she seems mostly harmless and Robert does keep her mostly out of dangerous situations.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eadie

    This series is a great escape from the brutal thrillers that I normally read. It is rich in history and portrays the Victorian era very well. I love all the characters and there is, of course, a romantic interest for Madeline Andrews and Robert Colbeck which I find very interesting. This book is the second in the series and is a very enjoyable read for train enthusiasts and mystery buffs alike. I highly recommend this book and I definitely will continue with the series as I find the plots to be This series is a great escape from the brutal thrillers that I normally read. It is rich in history and portrays the Victorian era very well. I love all the characters and there is, of course, a romantic interest for Madeline Andrews and Robert Colbeck which I find very interesting. This book is the second in the series and is a very enjoyable read for train enthusiasts and mystery buffs alike. I highly recommend this book and I definitely will continue with the series as I find the plots to be complex at times.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Suzie

    I had high hopes for this series, but it was disappointing, the dialogue was stilted, the characters two-dimensional and overall it left me feeling irritated.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Another great mystery novel by Edward Marston. Story gets somewhat convoluted with the amount of characters in the second and third acts, but very entertaining with a satisfying conclusion.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Corielle Hayley

    Sometimes, you go to a library book sale and grab something for $1 that turns out the be awesome, like The Mexican Mafia by Tony Rafael that I found at last year's sale, or the big pile of Isabel Allende books I hauled home. Other times, you spend $1 on a book like The Excursion Train, which despite its semi-decent Goodreads reviews was one of the dullest, most poorly written books I have read all year. Set in England in the 1800s, The Excursion Train is about a murder on a (duh) train that's hea Sometimes, you go to a library book sale and grab something for $1 that turns out the be awesome, like The Mexican Mafia by Tony Rafael that I found at last year's sale, or the big pile of Isabel Allende books I hauled home. Other times, you spend $1 on a book like The Excursion Train, which despite its semi-decent Goodreads reviews was one of the dullest, most poorly written books I have read all year. Set in England in the 1800s, The Excursion Train is about a murder on a (duh) train that's headed to an illegal boxing match. The murder victim was an executioner, so there are quite a few suspects. The murderer used a garrote, because the hangman hangs people! The detective, a wanna-be Sherlock Holmes named Colbeck, investigates the murder, then someone else dies, and blah blah blah. I got kind of drunk to make it through the last 100 pages, so I'm a bit fuzzy on the details. But who cares, because you won't read it anyway (seriously, don't). It was just dull. And the writing was bad. The story probably could have been saved by a better author, but after the third time that someone told the detective something along the lines of "wow, you're just so much smarter and observant than us, gee shucks!" (I'm paraphrasing), I really had to pour another glass of wine. I like Victorian England. I like homages to Sherlock Holmes. But this was a disgrace to the genre, and a waste of my dollar.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cocaine

    When a hangman bound to watch a bare knuckle fight is found dead, having been garrotted on an excursion train, Inspector Robert Colbeck is called in to investigate. This is a mystery of the first order but one that nods with due respect to the masters of the past rather than the present. The murders, as such must be, are presented as being violent and bloody the reader is left to imagine how horrendous they are for the author does not go in for grim realism. The pacing is immaculate, the charact When a hangman bound to watch a bare knuckle fight is found dead, having been garrotted on an excursion train, Inspector Robert Colbeck is called in to investigate. This is a mystery of the first order but one that nods with due respect to the masters of the past rather than the present. The murders, as such must be, are presented as being violent and bloody the reader is left to imagine how horrendous they are for the author does not go in for grim realism. The pacing is immaculate, the characters straight from Dickens and there is even a bit of love interest. This is not a book for those who like modern mystery fiction for there is no sex, little real violence but as a consequence concentrates on the story rather than the peripheral narrative. There is character development which follows the same set of individuals as first seen in the previous novel. The situations are sound based on good historical knowledge but never in a clever 18look what I know 19 way. If you want something light and easy to read that is well written then look no further than the 18Railway Detective 19 series by Edward Marston.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    A quick, engaging read, a complex, satisfying mystery populated with vivid, interesting characters and packed with great period detail. A more or less perfect piece of entertainment, a mystery set in the early days of rail travel in England, with settings ranging from the noisome slums of London to a pleasant village that is slowly being overrun by industry. The supporting cast is equally varied and colourful and there's a bit of everything in here: terror, tragedy, pathos and even some humour. A quick, engaging read, a complex, satisfying mystery populated with vivid, interesting characters and packed with great period detail. A more or less perfect piece of entertainment, a mystery set in the early days of rail travel in England, with settings ranging from the noisome slums of London to a pleasant village that is slowly being overrun by industry. The supporting cast is equally varied and colourful and there's a bit of everything in here: terror, tragedy, pathos and even some humour. I was a bit thrown by the occasional shifts to viewpoints outside of the main focus characters; Inspector Robert Colbeck and his assistant, Sergeant Leeming, and thought they were somewhat out of place given the tightly focussed limited third person viewpoint of the rest of the book, but this a minor quibble of the sort that I rarely engage in.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Clark Hallman

    Excursion Train by Edward Marston – This is book two in the Railway Detective series by Marston. It is another very entertaining novel about the 19th-Century Scotland Yard inspector, Robert Colbeck and his assistant, Sergeant Victor Leeming. A man is murdered in a Great Western Railway carriage during a crowded excursion to a boxing match. Colbeck and Leeming quickly become embroiled in a complex case that involves multiple murders, multiple suspects, and an attempted murder of Inspector Colbeck Excursion Train by Edward Marston – This is book two in the Railway Detective series by Marston. It is another very entertaining novel about the 19th-Century Scotland Yard inspector, Robert Colbeck and his assistant, Sergeant Victor Leeming. A man is murdered in a Great Western Railway carriage during a crowded excursion to a boxing match. Colbeck and Leeming quickly become embroiled in a complex case that involves multiple murders, multiple suspects, and an attempted murder of Inspector Colbeck. In addition to the unique railroad environment, this book is populated by interesting characters, and Marston provides an engaging story. I thought this book was even more enjoyable than the first volume in the series and I look forward to reading more of this series.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Richard Denning

    First one of this series I read and the second book in the series. On a train full of sports fans going to a boxing match a man is killed. This opens up a story of a miscarriages of justice and no less than thee murders. Well written and entertaining and good recreation of the period. I will certainly check out the other books by this author.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I find myself liking this series entry better than the first, possibly because trains take a smaller role. Not that I have anything against them--like Colbeck, I also enjoy train travel--but I found the mystery to be more engrossing without having to wade through details best enjoyed by major railroad buffs.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    Well written mystery. I liked it and will continue the series.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Johnny

    One of the best features of The Railway Detective series is that it offers solid variety concerning the set-up on the inevitable crimes to be solved. My first experience (with a later volume in the series) began with a suicide (Railway to the Grave). My second, the eponymous first volume, began with a train robbery and assault. The actual second volume in the series, The Excursion Train, begins with a bare-knuckled prize fight—illegal at the time, and it is followed by the discovery of something One of the best features of The Railway Detective series is that it offers solid variety concerning the set-up on the inevitable crimes to be solved. My first experience (with a later volume in the series) began with a suicide (Railway to the Grave). My second, the eponymous first volume, began with a train robbery and assault. The actual second volume in the series, The Excursion Train, begins with a bare-knuckled prize fight—illegal at the time, and it is followed by the discovery of something else illegal, a murder. When the victim turns out to be a hangman, Inspector Colbeck quickly suspects that this might be a vengeance killing. There are strange ancillary circumstances, too. It seems a young woman is involved in the murder, but she was not physically capable of performing the crime. When other victims relate to an alleged innocent man who was hanged, the idea of a conspiracy comes to mind. Of course, the intransigent Superintendent Tallis believes that Colbeck’s instinct is off the mark (as usual). So, the supervisor and the detective are head-to-head for much of the story. It is only Colbeck’s reputation among the railroads which keeps him involved in the investigation. There is a portion of this mystery which reminds me of The Lone Ranger or Wild, Wild West on television. In the two television series just cited, the protagonist often sent his sidekick (respectively, Tonto or Artemis Gordon) into dangerous situations in which, predictably, they were discovered and placed in grave danger. In The Excursion Train, Victor Leeming finds that undercover work can be very dangerous. Fortunately, Mulryne (a member of the supporting cast) is able to pick up where Leeming has to leave off—in spite of Superintendent Tallis’ prejudice against the big Irishman and ex-policeman. More than the first volume of the series, The Excursion Train rather emphasizes the rather unpleasant social plight of women during the era. Particularly moving in this story was the reaction of widows to the news of spousal deaths. Almost more than the sense of emotional loss was the sense of economic loss and a feeling of unease (or even fear) for the future. Of course, Colbeck’s romantic interest, the lovely Madeline, proves as much of an exception to the rule as Charlotte Pitt does in the investigations found in Anne Perry’s novels. Railroad fans, Victorian Era fans, and those who like mysteries with just enough twists beyond the expected tropes should enjoy these volumes. The Excursion Train won’t disappoint.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    A well written whodunnit with a nod to the steam trains of the 19th century. The hero of the piece is something of an enthusiast for railway travel and by coincidence the first murder of the novel occurs on a train. No detective novel is usually content with one murder so true to form there are a handful of actual murders and one attempted. As the plot unfolds there are several characters who might be the guilty party. The mystery is solved after a few false turns in the final pages of the book. A well written whodunnit with a nod to the steam trains of the 19th century. The hero of the piece is something of an enthusiast for railway travel and by coincidence the first murder of the novel occurs on a train. No detective novel is usually content with one murder so true to form there are a handful of actual murders and one attempted. As the plot unfolds there are several characters who might be the guilty party. The mystery is solved after a few false turns in the final pages of the book. My only criticism is that whilst the motive for the historical first murder in the novel is plausible the explanation given for subsequent killings is not so clear and I felt a little tenuous. Nevertheless an enjoyable escapist read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris Howland

    What a fantastic story. I found this to be much better than the first "Railway Detective" novel. Robert Colbeck's personality and that of the other major characters are being fleshed out very nicely indeed. The novel is centred around a miscarriage of justice, something that society should be ashamed of, and in Robert Colbeck we have a tenacious Victorian detective and "righter of wrongs". The novel abounds with suspects and readers should be assured that at all times almost everything is not wha What a fantastic story. I found this to be much better than the first "Railway Detective" novel. Robert Colbeck's personality and that of the other major characters are being fleshed out very nicely indeed. The novel is centred around a miscarriage of justice, something that society should be ashamed of, and in Robert Colbeck we have a tenacious Victorian detective and "righter of wrongs". The novel abounds with suspects and readers should be assured that at all times almost everything is not what it seems. The ending comes as something of a surprise and the continuing story-lines are left well placed for the next novel in the series.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

    Another good, fairly traditional, murder mystery. The crime has much less to do with the railway in this book, which I was surprised at, but it's still a strong theme throughout the book and I think I actually enjoyed that more. You get more of a sense of the historical significance of railway travel, how it functioned on a social level and the interest it drew. The mystery was nicely complex too, with plenty of twists and revelations that stopped me from guessing the full truth until the reveal Another good, fairly traditional, murder mystery. The crime has much less to do with the railway in this book, which I was surprised at, but it's still a strong theme throughout the book and I think I actually enjoyed that more. You get more of a sense of the historical significance of railway travel, how it functioned on a social level and the interest it drew. The mystery was nicely complex too, with plenty of twists and revelations that stopped me from guessing the full truth until the reveal. For anybody who's interested in the nineteenth century and loves a good mystery, these are a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to the next one!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This book wasn’t as gripping and exciting as the first book but I still really enjoyed it. Although the lead character is nicknamed ‘the railway detective’, the book itself isn’t overly concerned with the specifics of trains, but more with the crime committed and how it will be solved. I think this is why I enjoyed the book and it comes to a satisfying, if not a little predictable, ending. Will definitely be reading the next book!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anna Brunskill

    A middling example of the genre. The plot is tight and the characters well-drawn if a little stereotypical. There was some fairly tedious and clunky exposition towards the end of the book; I don’t think the reader needed the villain’s motives or emotions explained in such an anvil-dropping way. But the central character of the railway detective is an interesting one and this is undemanding reading to keep me occupied during Covid quarantine.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steven Fox

    This is the second in the on going Railway Detective series, This story takes Inspector Colebrook On another case that starts with a murder on a train that is heading to a big boxing fight but leads to Him and his sergeant and a merry go round of places trying to pick up clues along the way. A great follow up book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Hamilton

    A fantastic read by a remarkable author, Detective Colbeck, aka the railway inspector, is tasked with finding a brutal murderer. Marston will have you guessing and second guessing from start to finish with many turns in a truly remarkable read, very much looking forward to reading the next installment

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bob Harris

    Good, fun read. Nice sequel to the previous work, "The Railroad Detective." Reminiscent of a CBC series, "The Murdoch Mysteries." Inspectors Robert Colbeck and William Murdoch have tonsorial tastes in common, along with logic and a keen eye for detail. Good, fun read. Nice sequel to the previous work, "The Railroad Detective." Reminiscent of a CBC series, "The Murdoch Mysteries." Inspectors Robert Colbeck and William Murdoch have tonsorial tastes in common, along with logic and a keen eye for detail.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Found this book in a cabinet at a resort in Jamaica. So I finished it off in a little over a day on the beach. A pleasant surprise. I like a good mystery and this one was nicely done. Perfect read for a relaxing day in the sun. Will check out the others in the series.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mentatreader

    Fair enough mystery I am finding that I like these mysteries, they are well constructed. However, this one contained a shameful amount of typographical errors. And one error of fact regarding railway operations.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael Corry

    A Very Good Read This is the first Railway Detective mystery that I have read and it certainly won't be the last! It is well written with believable characters and a neatly crafted plot. Recommended!! A Very Good Read This is the first Railway Detective mystery that I have read and it certainly won't be the last! It is well written with believable characters and a neatly crafted plot. Recommended!!

  27. 5 out of 5

    J

    So clunky it made loud noises as I turned the pages, and yet turn them I did so EM must have done something right. A bit of historical colour and a moderately interesting mystery, I guess. But soooooo clunky. Show don't tell must have been off the menu the day he sat down to write this one. So clunky it made loud noises as I turned the pages, and yet turn them I did so EM must have done something right. A bit of historical colour and a moderately interesting mystery, I guess. But soooooo clunky. Show don't tell must have been off the menu the day he sat down to write this one.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Not an all-time favorite, characters are stock but the setting is interesting. Liked it waaay more than his medieval mystery series.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tomos

    enjoyable second book in series.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Olga Gamer

    I thought that the book was too bogged down with the various plot points and characters. Ultimately it became hard to follow.

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