The Railway Detective, Part 2: Books 5-8


Welcome the second of three posts I shall be producing about The Railway Detective. The previous post covered four of the books and can be viewed here. As I warned in the introduction to that post, this is laden with spoilers. I hope you will all enjoy this post and be encouraged to share it.



The Iron Horse refers to locomotives, but this story is also deeply concerned with flesh and blood horses, since it involves a crime that occurred during the Derby. Colbeck, operating with his usual flair and persistence, and with the assistance of the inevitable Leeming is able to bring a series of horrible crimes home to Lord Hendry.


A derailment near Balcombe is the initial incident that opens this story. The railway police in the person of Captain Harvey Ridgeon reckon that the accident was caused by driver error. However, unlike Ridgeon was has formed an opinion and bends every new fact to fit that opinion, Colbeck notes that the driver of that particular train was known for caution, that he managed to instruct his fireman to jump off before the disaster struck, and that a section of track had been deliberately loosened. Colbeck also identifies two passengers on that train who had enemies, although it turns out that there was a third passenger on that train whose behaviour had caused one particular individual to want revenge on both him and the train that he regularly used. The book ends with Ridgeon, his errors cruelly exposed, apologising to Colbeck.



A silver coffee pot in the shape of a locomotive, commissioned by a wealthy family in Cardiff goes missing, and the man entrusted with delivering it from London to Cardiff is found murdered. The young man identified as the murder victim is Hugh Kellow, apprentice to the silversmith Leonard Voke, and the original suspect is Voke’s disinherited son Stephen. Colbeck traces Voke junior and soon establishes that he is not the murderer. Having to rethink the entire case, Colbeck arrives at the notion the murder victim was not Kellow, but someone who looked similar and could be used to send the police down a blind alley. A trip to Birmingham’s jewellery quarter ensues, for which Colbeck enlists both the official assistance of Leeming and the unofficial assistance of Madeleine Andrews. The trip to Birmingham yields Kellow and his accomplice Bridget Haggs, a.k.a Effie, a.k.a Mrs Vernon. Additionally, Madeleine Andrews and Robert Colbeck become engaged. This book also introduces us to actor-manager Nigel Buckmaster, subsequently to provide Colbeck with valuable assistance in at least two further cases.



Unlike almost every other book and story in the series there is no element of ‘who done it?’ about this story – it is a case of ‘will they get away with it?’. The action opens with Jeremy Exley being conveyed from Wolverhampton to Birmingham to be imprisoned. A young lady named Irene Adnam, his lover and accomplice, kills one of the two policemen guarding him, assists in the killing of the other and the disposal of the two bodies. The crimes having been committed on the railway, Colbeck is involved from the start. Colbeck has an extra reason to bring this case to a successful conclusion, since it was Exley who was responsible for him becoming a policeman in the first place. Colbeck had been a barrister, and in that role persuaded a young women who witnessed a robbery carried out by Exley to give evidence in court. Exley responded by murdering the young woman in a particularly horrible way.

Eventually, after a chase that leads all the way to America, the villains are run to earth, and Colbeck succeeds in dividing them by telling Irene the story of the earlier murder in full detail.


Author: Thomas

I am a founder member and currently secretary of the West Norfolk Autism Group and am autistic myself. I am a very keen photographer and almost every blog post I produce will feature some of my own photographs. I am an avidly keen cricket fan and often post about that sport.

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