Series: The Railway Detective #20
Published by Allison & Busby on October 20, 2022
Genres: Historical Mystery
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December 1864. As a cold winter wind scours the Worcestershire countryside, an excursion train comes through a tunnel in the Malvern Hills, only to be confronted by a blockage on the line ahead. The driver manages to slow the train down so that the impact is minimised, but the passengers are alarmed.
The first person to alight is Cyril Hubbleday, the man in charge of the excursion. He walks to the front of the locomotive—and, as he is talking to the driver, fireman, and guard, he is shot dead by a sniper.
With Christmas around the corner, Inspector Robert Colbeck and Sergeant Victor Leeming are under pressure to solve the case quickly. However, between enemies in the shadows and an investigation hampered by heavy snow, their hunt for a cold-blooded killer is far from straightforward.
The Railway Detective’s Christmas Case is the first I’ve read in the series. It works fine as a stand-alone, but I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I been more familiar with the characters. Colbeck’s family is featured often, mostly hoping he gets home in time for Christmas and, for me, those interludes were distractions from the plot, but if I cared more about the characters I might have been more interested.
Colbeck and Leeming are charged with finding the killer of a well-respected man, Cyril Hubblesday. Hubblesday was not a nice man though and there are a fair number of suspects, from employees at the works to his daughter’s former suitor. The clues the pair dig up point in several directions, and it turns out there is more going on than was originally suspected.
I don’t know. The case was interesting and I enjoyed the historical details, but it dragged a bit. There were a lot of characters, several of whom were rather eccentric, but not too many to keep track of. The final solution was not great though. The killer made sense, but the motive was a bit weak.