The Railway Viaduct by Edward Marston
3rd in the Colbeck series.

I reviewed the fourth in this series for rte so anyone who
wants a full review can go and look there! 🙂

The books share a weird similarity – I have no idea whether
this applies to Marston’s other series. They have terrific
first chapters and the rest of the books are pleasant but average.

In this one a painter is in the act of painting a new railway
viaduct when a train crosses the viaduct and a body is thrown
out of (or jumps from) the train. Marston’s description is
really brilliant – he uses the painter’s eye to capture every element
of the scene – the viaduct itself, massive in its architectural achievement,
two women and a child on a picnic, a barge on the canal (its
purpose consigned to history by the viaduct which runs above)
and finally the body plunging through the air. One is inevitably
drawn to think of Auden’s poem Musee de Beaux Arts and Icarus
falling from the sky. As I say this is brilliant writing – as good a
prologue as you are likely to find.

And then! Well the rest of the book is frankly average. Not bad  –
there is enough historical detail without being tiring, and just enough of
a story (though little mystery as the villain is revealed quite early).
Colbeck himself is vaguely interesting though certainly not compelling.
The best thing with this book would be to visit the library, read the
first chapter, then borrow something else! Perhaps that is unfair – it
is not a bad book. But oh what a disappointment after that opening.

(May 2008)