For April and my 12 in 12 Challenge I am reading historical novels. I am trying to choose novels from my to-be-read list which are widely spread through time and because there are so many books on the pile (actually, it is a whole bookcase) I have had plenty of choice. Because I am still off sick from work following foot surgery and I can’t get out I have lots of opportunity to read so I am hoping to get 12 read in the month quite easily, even if some of those I have put aside are quite long.
An historical novel is one written about a previous time period. This means that most classics such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens are not eligible as they usually wrote about their own time. My first book is by Edward Marston and is called The Railway Detective and it is set in 1851 at the opening of the Great Exhibition in London. It was recommended to me by my friend Jane.
This is a “cosy” crime novel to some extent. It isn’t gory at all and it concentrates on the lives of the detectives and others connected with the crime rather than on the criminal. It isn’t, at first, a murder story at all because it starts with a train robbery. In fact, when we do find out who the criminal is and why they are carrying out attacks on the railway I found it stretched my belief a bit although it didn’t ruin the reading experience.
Our hero detective Robert Colbeck is a little different from other detectives and brighter than his superiors. He is pretty sure of what is going on at an early stage but is thwarted by his boss who is looking for an easy answer and personal advancement – he finds himself having to do things outside the rules and disobey direct instructions. He has an assistant to whom he can explain everything and there is even a potential love interest. The author knows his history and trains but I felt that information wasn’t pushed at the reader but supplied well as part of the story.
This is an easy to read novel but which provides plenty of enjoyment. The atmosphere of the time is well done but doesn’t overpower the human element. I thought that the plot was a little far-fetched but I could cope with it. This is the beginning of a series of books which I think all feature the railways in some form.
This was a satisfying start to my month of reading historical novels – 11 to go !