Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Handed the solution

Inspector Robert Colbeck, the hero of Edward Marston's Railway Detective mystery series, does his best work in Railway to the Grave  detecting who didn't kill Miriam Tarleton, not who did.

In this otherwise excellent seventh entry in the series, published in 2010, Colbeck gets called in when Colonel Aubrey Tarleton, Miriam's husband, takes a stroll right into the path of an oncoming train. Tarleton was a close friend of Superintendent Tallis, Colbeck's boss, who wants his man not only to solve the mystery of the strange suicide and the missing wife but also to prove that Tarleton was of sound mind at the time, that he did not kill his wife and that, in fact, the Tarletons were a happily married couple. It's a big job, made all the more difficult when Tallis, at first, insists upon leading the investigation. Only when their ill-tempered superior returns to London can Colbeck and his associate, Sgt. Victor Leeming, get down to the business of discovering what really happened.

The climax of this enjoyable murder mystery proves disappointing when Colbeck is simply handed a package of letters discovered by a maid that reveal a previously unknown motive for murder, and these letters lead to a quick confession. A reader wants fictional detectives to work a little harder than this to solve perplexing cases.

Yet Colbeck does shine in dismissing three other suspects, all which whom Leeming is ready to slip the handcuffs on. Colbeck deduces that while they may be guilty of other crimes and other sins, none of them killed Mrs. Tarleton.

The novel is filled with interesting characters, most of whom have something to hide, and interesting subplots, including one of Colbeck trying to work up the nerve to tell Tallis of his plans to be married. With a satisfying solution to the mystery, this book would have been top-notch.

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