The Railway Detective Part 3: Books 9-12


Welcome to this third and final post devoted to the doings of the Railway Detective, Inspector Robert Colbeck, as chronicled by Edward Marston. The to view the previous posts click:

1)For the post about books 1-4

2)For the post about books 5-8

3)Every post in which I have even mentioned the Railway Detective



The remains of Joel Heygate, popular stationmaster at Exeter St Davids are found beneath a public bonfire. Local opinion, including the powerful, deeply unpleasant bishop, is that Bernard ‘Bagsy’ Browne was the killer.

Colbeck typically keeps an open mind, making more than a few enemies by so doing.

The manageress of the station cafe becomes demented by grief and is confined to a local asylum. Colbeck eventually discovers that the stationmaster had found out about the fact that man in charge of the asylum had been taking advantage of young female patients and using a local couple to dispose of the unwanted progeny – and had been murdered to prevent him talking. Bagsy Browne was still going to prison for a long spell, as he was guilty of a huge variety of other crimes of varying degrees of severity.



An act of sabotage on the railway in Scotland opens the action. Superintendent Tallis is reluctant to send Colbeck and Leeming to Scotland, but Colbeck wins the argument. One early group of suspects are the Sabbatarians, viciously opposed to trains running on the sabbath, and carrying out various acts of vandalism, petty theft and the like to make their point.

it turns out to be a lot more serious than that. A burglary in London reveals the plot against the Royal Train, and Colbeck eventually foils it. It is a very near thing – the people behind the crime even murdered the burglar once his work was done.

Nigel Buckmaster, the actor-manager, puts in another appearance, identifying likely elocution teachers who could have helped someone from Willenhall to lose their accent.



A young women and her maid disappear from a non-stopping train between Worcester and Oxford. Colbeck and Leeming are duly sent out to investigate. Colbeck establishes that the couple must have left the train in disguise for a prearranged meeting. A ransom demand soon comes, and Colbeck impersonates the girl’s father in a bid to catch the culprits. Any hope of so doing is destroyed when the girl’s fiance from whom she had fled, Clive Tunnadine shoots the go between with whom Colbeck is negotiating.

The abductors then succeed in extracting two ransoms (one each from the father and Tunnadine) while keeping the girl and her maidservant. Colbeck works out that the villains are headed for Ireland, and runs them to earth, returning the girl and her maid to their family.

This has the best cover of all the books, so I have several pictures of it…

DSCN8143 DSCN8144 DSCN8145 DSCN8146


Unlike all the other books about the Railway Detective, which are single stories, told in full detail, this is a collection of short stories, spanning Colbeck’s career to date. This gives one an opportunity to see how the character has developed since Marston started writing these stories.

DSCN8030 DSCN8031


I hope that the series continues at least into the 1860s and the beginnings of London Underground, with the Metropolitan Railway. Perhaps there is scope for a continuation series (a la Lindsey Davies with the Flavia Albia series) once Colbeck himself gets too old for detective work – Leeming’s children have expressed an interest in becoming detectives, and one imagines that the Colbecks will become parents, so Colbeck Junior doing detective work is not impossible. Certainly I hope we have not seen the last of these railway themed detective stories.


I have three links to share with you:

1)A glossary of some LGBT terms.

2)The story of social media’s role in getting Jane Austen onto the £10 note.

3)A link to what looks like being excellent autism resource.


I hope that you have enjoyed this post and will be encourage to share it.

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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