Our first stop on Crime Fiction on a EuroPass is England, and my departure point is London's Victoria Station.
Many good crime fiction journeys begin and end here.
Here are a few:
- SHAKE HANDS FOREVER, Ruth Rendell
The woman standing under the departures board at Victoria station had a flat rectangular body and an iron-hard rectangular face. A hat of fawn-coloured corrugated felt rather like a walnut shell encased her head, her hands were gloved in fawn-coloured cotton, and at her feet was the durable but scarcely used brown leather suitcase she had taken on her honeymoon forty-five years before. Her eyes scanned the scurrying commuters while her mouth grew more and more set, the lips thinning to a hairline crack. She was waiting for her son. He was one minute late and his unpunctuality had begun to afford her a glowing satisfaction. She was hardly aware of this pleasure and, had she been accused of it, would have denied it
- THE VICTIM IN VICTORIA STATION, Jeanne M. Dams, my rating 3.9
American Dorothy Martin broke her ankle shortly after her second marriage. Her British husband is ex-policeman Alan Nesbitt much in demand by police forces around the world as a consultant, and in this book he is only a voice at the other end of the phone. Dorothy has to travel to London by train to see her specialist, and during the journey she talks to the young man in the opposite seat, who is the CEO of a software company. When they arrive at Victoria Station he appears to have fallen asleep, and when Dorothy tries to wake him she finds that he is very dead. The doctor who comes to her assistance on the train says he will take care of matters and do all the necessary reporting, so Dorothy hobbles off ot her appointment. However the death isn't reported and now Dorothy involves herself in the investigation of what was obviously a murder. Just a little to cosy for my liking, and for me Dorothy seems a bit improbable.
- THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN, Agatha Christie, my rating 4.6
Ruth Kettering's journey from Victoria Station to Nice on the luxurious Blue Train was her last. By the time the train arrived in Nice she was dead. But what was the motive? The presence of her husband on the train makes him an immediate suspect especially as he becomes heir to her considerable personal fortune. But what about the fact that her jewellery, in particular a necklace containing the fabulous ruby the size of a pigeon's egg known as The Heart of Fire, is missing, along with her maid?
The other element to the story is Katherine Grey, recently the beneficiary of an elderly woman's will, and on her way to Nice to stay with her relative Lady Tamplin. She meets Ruth Kettering on the train, and then Hercule Poirot in Paris.
Hercule Poirot is eventually engaged by Ruth Kettering's father to discover who murdered his daughter, and what became of the ruby necklace. He sees Katherine Grey as a key witness, an excellent judge of character, and involves her in his investigation.
- Edward Marston, THE RAILWAY DETECTIVE, my rating 4.6
1851 is the setting for this first title in the Railway Detective series: the year of the Great Exhibition, and the building of the Crystal Palace. The Detective Department of Scotland Yard is only 9 years old. A train on the Great Western Railway is held up at Leighton Buzzard, its driver seriously hurt, the train robbed of the consignment of gold coins that it is carrying, and finally derailed. The investigator is Inspector Robert Colbeck, a considerate, well-spoken, well educated and gifted lawyer turned policeman. He has spent minimal time in uniform and brings a different outlook to law enforcement, focusing on crime prevention rather than punishment. The story has an authentic depiction of mid 19th century English society on the brink of the second industrial revolution. Good reading. #1 in a series.