This tale of Britain's first railway murder in Victorian London in 1864 is a true whodunnit. The facts are meticulously detailed. Senior bank clerk Thomas Briggs enters a single railway compartment at Fenchurch Street. He is seen when the train arrives at Bow Station in the carriage in the company of two men. His unconscious and dying body is found on the track between Bow and Hackney Wick, four minutes away. At the next stop, Hackney, two clerks from the same bank enter the compartment to find it full of blood. Briggs' stick and bag are in the compartment and a battered hat. But the hat is not his.
Within a few days a jeweller describes a man exchanging a gold chain which is found to be the one missing from Mr Briggs. Following the publication of a reward a heavily indebted cabbie puts an acquaintance, a German tailor called Franz Muller, firmly in the frame as prime suspect when he describes his friend's new hat. But Muller has sailed for New York. The police pursue him in a steamship which, thanks to contrary winds, arrives long before the sailing ship. Despite the American Civil War and the need to travel to Washington which has recently been surrounded by Confederate armies the police extradite Muller and bring him back to London to stand trial. But did he do it?
There is yards of circumstantial evidence: the watch chain, the hat, the watch itself. But there is also an alibi. And the police suppress evidence of the two men seen sitting with Briggs in the carriage, neither of whom fit Muller's description.
Will Muller be convicted? Will he hang? And if he didn't do it, who did? Was it cabbie Matthews who subsequently sought to incriminate his friend? Was it the unknown man who had threatened Briggs over a loan?
This is a desperately exciting whodunnit brilliantly written. January 2013; 286 pages.
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57