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Publisher's Summary

When Robert Pomeroy, a young undergraduate at Corpus Christi College, finds a letter slipped under his door in the early hours of a rainy day, he flies into a panic. He hurries to the railway station. But he doesn’t reach his destination alive. 

Inspector Colbeck and Sergeant Leeming are called upon to investigate this tragedy on the railway. It soon becomes apparent that Cambridge’s hopes of success in the forthcoming boat race rested on Pomeroy’s shoulders. 

With academic disputes, romantic interests and a sporting rivalry with Oxford in play, the railway detective will have his work cut out to disentangle the threads of Pomeroy’s life in order to answer the truth of his death.

©2021 Edward Marston (P)2021 Soundings

What listeners say about Tragedy on the Branch Line

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  • D. Louis
  • 05-14-21

What has happened to the Railway Detective?

What has happened to this series from Edward Marston? I used to enjoy the Railway Detective novels, but ever since Robert Colbeck married Madeline Andrews, the books have become increasingly less interesting as detective novels and more of a soap opera. While the two were courting there seemed to be a reason for the side stories featuring Madeline and her father, but since their marriage, these side-issues, which now feature Madeline and friend Lydia Quayle rather than Madeline and her father, have no relevance at all and are just an unnecessary distraction. In this book I sighed heavily with frustration each time the scene cut back to Madeline, and her story. Indeed, the mystery seemed to take up only a fraction of the book, the rest being given over to either Madeline's tale of angst, or her father's - both extraneous material that detracted from the original detective storyline.

I like my detective stories to be just that, detective stories, but with Edward Marston one does need to contend with a smattering of romance, which is usually fairly light and reasonably well-integrated, so as not to detract from the main story. However, this budding romance between Lydia Quayle and Alan Hinton is firstly, totally gratuitous, and is progressing at so slow a pace that one dispairs of them ever getting together and getting this unnecessary storyline over, done and out of the books completely.

Listening to this audiobook, in addition to all the extraneous pap, Sam Dastor seems to have given some of the characters completely different voices which, of course, makes them into totally different characters. Madeline had gone from a simple, reasonably well spoken (considering her background) young woman, to a blousy, cockney barmaid, and her new voice jarred every time I heard it. Alan Hinton has also changed from again, a respectable sounding, enthusiastic constable to what sounded to me like the village idiot. Why this change in personality for these characters, because that is what changing the voices does, it changes the core of the character's personality?

Finally, a strange note of social insecurity that was never there before seems to have crept in. Madeline Colbeck, having accepted Robert Colbeck as an equal during their courting days seemingly without any feelings of inferiority despite her only being a train driver's daughter and he a middle-class Oxford graduate and ex-barrister, suddenly seemed to have developed feelings of inadequacy regarding the class she has elevated herself to. This made no sense at all, because such feelings, if Madeline was ever capable of them, should surely have come while she was on the way up, not when she had reached the summit and was thriving well.

I hope Marston can get these books back on track because if not, this will be the last of this series that I will be reading. I have already given up on the Home Front books because of the increasing prevalence of extraneous storylines - to wit, Alice Marmion's romance with Joe Keedy, and Paul Marmion's disappearance. A detective story is a detective story, and a romance is a completely different kind of book, with a very different readership, and ne'er the twain shall meet.

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