The Great Train Robbery

The Great Train Robbery

4.4 61
by Michael Crichton
     
 

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"A nineteenth-century version of THE STING...Crichton fascinates us."
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
In teeming Victorian London, where lavish wealth and appalling poverty live side by side, Edward Pierce charms the most prominent of the well-to-do as he cunningly orchestrates the crime of the century. Who would suspect that a gentleman of breeding could

Overview

"A nineteenth-century version of THE STING...Crichton fascinates us."
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
In teeming Victorian London, where lavish wealth and appalling poverty live side by side, Edward Pierce charms the most prominent of the well-to-do as he cunningly orchestrates the crime of the century. Who would suspect that a gentleman of breeding could mastermind the daring theft of a fortune in gold? Who could predict the consequences of making the extraordinary robbery aboard the pride of England's industrial era, the mighty steam locomotive? Based on fact, as lively as legend, and studded with all the suspense and style of a modern fiction master, here is a classic caper novel set a decade before the age of dynamite—yet nonetheless explosive....

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A nineteenth-century version of The Sting...Crichton fascinates us."-- The New, York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345418999
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/23/1997
Pages:
281
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Provocation

Forty minutes out of London, passing through the rolling green fields and cherry orchards of Kent, the morning train of the South Eastern Railway attained its maximum speed of fifty-four miles an hour. Riding the bright blue-painted engine, the driver in his red uniform could be seen standing upright in the open air, unshielded by any cab or windscreen, while at his feet the engineer crouched, shoveling coal into the glowing furnaces of the engine. Behind the chugging engine and tender were three yellow first-class coaches, followed by seven green second-class carriages; and at the very end, a gray, windowless luggage van.

As the train clattered down the track on its way to the coast, the sliding door of the luggage van opened suddenly, revealing a desperate struggle inside. The contest was most unevenly matched: a slender youth in tattered clothing, striking out against a burly, blue-uniformed railway guard. Although weaker, the youth made a good showing, landing one or two telling blows against his hulking opponent. Indeed, it was only by accident that the guard, having been knocked to his knees, should spring forward in such a way that the youth was caught unprepared and flung clear of the train through the open door, so that he landed tumbling and bouncing like a rag doll upon the ground.

The guard, gasping for breath, looked back at the fast-receding figure of the fallen youth. Then he closed the sliding door. The train sped on, its whistle shrieking. Soon it was gone round a gentle curve, and all that remained was the faint sound of the chugging engine, and the lingering drifting gray smoke that slowlysettled over the tracks and the body of the motionless youth.

After a minute or two, the youth stirred. In great pain, he raised himself up on one elbow, and seemed about to rise to his feet. But his efforts were to no avail; he instantly collapsed back to the ground, gave a final convulsive shudder, and lay wholly still.

Half an hour later, an elegant black brougham coach with rich crimson wheels came down the dirt road that ran parallel to the railway tracks. The coach came to a hill, and the driver drew up his horse. A most singular gentleman emerged, fashionably dressed in a dark green velvet frock coat and high beaver hat. The gentleman climbed the hill, pressed binoculars to his eyes, and swept the length of the tracks. Immediately he fixed on the body of the prostrate youth. But the gentleman made no attempt to approach him, or to aid him in any way. On the contrary, he remained standing on the hill until he was certain the lad was dead. Only then did he turn aside, climb into his waiting coach, and drive back in the direction he had come, northward toward London.

Great Train Robbery. Copyright © by Michael Crichton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Michael Crichton was born in Chicago in 1942. His novels include TimelineJurassic Park, and The Andromeda Strain. He was also the creator of the television series ER. One of the most popular writers in the world, his books have been made into thirteen films, and translated in thirty-six languages. He died in 2008.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
October 23, 1942
Date of Death:
November 4, 2008
Place of Birth:
Chicago, Illinois
Place of Death:
Los Angeles, California
Education:
B.A.. in Anthropology, Harvard University, 1964; M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1969
Website:
http://www.michaelcrichton.net/

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Great Train Robbery 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read and I would recommend it to everybody. Michael Crichton writes very good pieces of literature and this is a great one. This novel is not only extremely engaging by describing the daring ploy of a criminal's attempt to steal $12,000 in gold, but it also provides deeper insight into life and society in Victorian times. Crichton's use of the Victorian dialect in the dialogue adds to the  novel and makes the story more engaging. He uses current events of that time period to add to the book, as well. The gold shipments to Crimea and the effect of the French Revolution give more detail on this time period and give better understanding to the reader. This book, although written in a Victorian dialect, I would recommend to everyone. The dialogue may be difficult to understand at times, but can be deciphered by the context of what is being said. This is a very good book, because it teaches about the Victorian era by using a significant and page turning story about a crime. This allows for a great read and a very informative and enlightening in knowledge about the history of Europe by adding in details about current events during the Victorian era mentioned in the last paragraph.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
On the edge if my set the whole time! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Edward Pierce is a man perfectly right for Victorian England. He's really clever but he puts his wits to work at committing crimes. In this time period, railways are relatively new so he targets a London bank's regular shipments of gold bullion to Paris. He plans and arranges a heist that will give him lots wealth for the rest of his days. Pierce is the surprisingly engaging villain and in this book, the cast of characters surrounding him really come alive. The dialogue in the novel is written in the Victorian dialect. The content of historical and cultural detail add emphasis to the novel, but it's the characters that really make this story such a joy to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Great Train Robbery By: Michael Chrichton Michael Chrichton's book The Great Train Robbery left an astounding effect on me in London, England in 1855. Chrichton goes in depth on what it was like and describes the different locations mentioned in the book. He does a great job in explaining and mentioning historical contexts of factual events and adding in his own characters thoughts and feelings to the mix. His style of writing is very unique and not many authors would be able to accomplish a great story like he has. He also adds in the backdrop or setting which is the Crimean war. The Crimean plays a strong and very interesting role as to of why the London train is shipping its bullion out to Britain. I would recommend the Great Train Robbery to all who like to read heist books with historical backgrounds in the mix. Chrichton does a great job and would have you until the very end. He does just a fantastic job and must be a must read to all that have not read the book. Chrichton writes his story around his main character, Edward Pierce, who is a wealthy bureaucrat with wealthy taste that decides he wants to rob a bullion of gold locked away on a moving train. He cannot do the job alone without a couple accomplices to aid him in his scheme and finds himself in the right position to carry out the plan. Though, Pierce runs into some complications when he has to find four keys the safe (the bullion is in) needs to be opened with. He eventually finds them and imprints the keys with wax. Now all he would have to do is carry out his plan, but there are more complications to arise. An example would be missing an extra pair of clothing that could expose oneself to suspicious glances from people who know them. Another, how to get back and forth from a train station without getting caught breaking and entering. Even though Edward and his crew face some very tough complications and flaws in their plan, they carry on. Will they succeed in their "Great Train Robbery"? Or will they fail? The answers are in Michael Chrichton's, Great Train Robbery, that will blow your eardrums off at the end of its whistle.
Joel_M More than 1 year ago
Michael Crichton's version of the sensational Great Train Robbery of 1855 was not straight-up historical fiction like I expected, but I still enjoyed it. The style swings back and forth between something like a documentary (featuring a lot of background on Victorian England and content from some of the original court documents) and fictionalized accounts of the conversations and actions surrounding the robbery (including a completely fabricated ending). I have seen this attempted in another book with a very uneven effect, but Crichton somehow pulled it off admirably...probably because conversations and action were consistently fictionalized and background info was consistently documentary in style. The protagonist is a charming, well-educated gentleman who deftly navigates both high society and the criminal underworld. His daring and ingenuity are impressive as he overcomes every obstacle between himself and the shipment of gold on its way from France to England. His reason for the heist: "I wanted the money." Overall: this was a great caper story, and as always Michael Crichton throws in lots of historical goodies...I just wish he hadn't felt the need to completely change how the story ended (and a number of other facts).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel was stunningly intriguing from start to finish. The story itself was captivating, and the narration was magnificent, not only keeping the reader's interest teeming, but also informing the reader to any necessary tidbits of information. Throughout the book, the characters are woven together in an intricate web that creates a riveting story line. I would recommend this book because it has all the factors needed in order to create a fantastic story. Specific examples of these pieces are the cat and mouse game that the culprits and police play the whole book. The story centers on a felon, but the way it’s told you keeps you consistently rooting for him to succeed. As the story progresses, it provides an inside look into the lives of 19th century Londoners, and the faults in the social system of back then. The type of information gained from this book could not very easily be found elsewhere, as it isn’t a commonly used subject for historical literature. I think that it’s uniqueness in subject and narration give it that extra push to make it outstanding. Another characteristic of the book that I enjoyed was the author’s purpose. In historical novels, the author’s main, and often exclusive, purpose is to inform. The events in the book are historically accurate, but they are not just facts. Crichton’s purpose when writing The Great Train Robbery was, in my opinion, not only to inform his readers of the past historical events, but also to entertain them. This is the key to writing a book that is worth taking the time to read to me. The book was entertaining. The author knew how to captivate his audience. The only historical part of the book was the plotline, not the way it was written. After reading numerous historical texts, this particular novel blew me away with its superiority in composition. I would absolutely recommend this book, especially to anyone interested in reading about the crimes committed in 19th century cities. This adventurous tale has a taste of the past that’s hard to beat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michael Crichton weaves an impressive story with Victorian England as the backdrop. Crichton's story utilizes historical accuracy with a fiction twist. The Great Train Robbery leaves readers cheering on the main character- Edward Pierce- even though he is undoubtedly a villain. He is, after all, plotting to steal twelve thousand pounds worth of gold bullion. You watch with admiration as Pierce concocts his masterplan. You find yourself crossing your fingers, hoping his plan works. You find yourself cheering on the bad guys when it seems like they will fail. You find yourself open-mouthed as they work to overcome the unexpected obstacles that pop up. You find yourself gasping when Pierce's accomplices sell him out. And lastly you find yourself smiling when Pierce succeeds. Crichton's book is a historical gem, and I would eagerly recommend it to anyone who wants to read a historically accurate book that has a fictional twist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Crichton is my favorite author and you wouldn't expect that from a sixteen year old girl like me! I've read a few other Crichton books but this one is probably the most unique! I've read: Micro Jurassic Park Sphere Pirate Latitudes The Great Train Robbery
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