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This is the third in Marston's "The Railway Detective" series, featuring Insp Robert Colbeck and his colleague, Sergeant Victor Leeming, of the nascent Scotland Yard pain-clothes crime investigation force. Like many police detective stories, our hero has not only to battle against criminals but also against internal interference and incompetence, in Colbeck's case in the form of his immediate superior, Supt Tallis.
Colbeck became associated with the resolution of a robbery on the railways in the first novel and so is now, much to the frustration of Tallis, called upon, at the request of the railway companies, to resolve any further crimes that happen across the railway networks.
In this latest story the apparent crime is that of a railway passenger seemingly having fallen from a train crossing a viaduct in north-west England. But, did he fall or was he pushed and, when he fell, was he already dead? More importantly, who was he? Fortunately for Colbeck and his investigation. the event was captured by a landscape artist who just happened to be painting a picture of the viaduct and so can supply important evidence to help solve the case.
It eventually transpires that the crime has an origin in France; there a British company is helping to build France's railway network. However, someone doesn't want this to succeed and the death in England is just part of a plot to sabotage the construction effort. So, Colbeck and Leeming are sent to France, much against Tallis's wishes, to uncover the perpetrators.
The story is fast-paced and uses Marston's favourite device for advancing the action of omitting details of the action itself but reviewing it in subsequent conversation between various characters. It's a writing device that works well in small doses and, fortunately, Marston uses it only in short doses but to good effect.
I have become very much a fan of these novels and look forward to getting hold of the subsequent ones in the series.