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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.
Posted May 4, 2012
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.
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Posted May 26, 2014
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.
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Posted March 11, 2013
Posted May 4, 2012
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.
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Posted January 28, 2014
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!
The Great Train Robbery
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Posted January 2, 2012
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).
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Posted April 4, 2015
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.
Posted March 1, 2015
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2014
Posted August 25, 2013
Posted October 3, 2012
Posted July 12, 2012
The Great Train Robbery is a disappointment compared to other Michael Crichton works. It boasts CONSTANT exposition while trying to tell it's own short-lived story.
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Posted February 16, 2009
When I first picked this book up, I didn't know what to expect. Before this, I had never read a historic novel. Personally, I hate history. And then I heard that the language in the novel was more Old Style. But once I started reading it, I literally could not put it down. Absolutely loved it!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 8, 2008
The Great Train Robbery written by Michael Crichton - review written by Brandon McKay<BR/><BR/> Extreme wealth and appalling poverty live side by side in Victorian London and Edward Pierce easily floats in and out of both worlds. Rich, smart, and handsome, he charms some of the noblest citizens, such as Edgar Trent one of the owners of a railroad. He charms them even as he plots the biggest, daring, and ingenious crime of his time, his century, some says ever, the theft of a fortune in gold.<BR/> But even Pierce could not predict the consequences of an extraordinary robbery that targets the pride of all of England's industrial era: The Steam Engine. Based on remarkable fact, and brought alive with gripping suspense, and surprise, Michael Crichton weaves this story with a set of ingenious characters. Such as clean Willie Williams, a cleansweep that has become England's finest snakesman or a person used to get into small spaces. Without Willie, Edward Pierce would have had no chance at the robbery. Or Barlow, the shady cabby who helps Pierce at whatever job is at hand. But even the noblest characters Pierce uses to his advantage, such as Henry Fowler, The train line owner, of the same train that Pierce robbed, or Edgar Trent who he uses through dog fighting, so even the noblest have their criminal hobbies. And finally Agar the sidekick who is not to be totally trusted as it seems.<BR/> Michael Crichton once again brings us a story full of suspense and surprise, in one of his best works of art. A New York Times Bestseller and "A GORGEOUS Read" as said by the Boston Globe. This book should be in everyone¿s library. If you read and like this book, you should also try Next, Prey, and State of Fear, all written by the same author (Michael Crichton).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 13, 2007
Edward Pierce is a gentleman rogue, a man perfectly suited to Queen Victoria's England. He's as clever as Sherlock Holmes, but he puts his wits to work at committing crimes instead of solving them. In this time and place where railway travel is relatively new, he targets a London bank's regular shipments of gold bullion - by rail, and by sea - to Paris, and sets about planning and arranging a heist that will give him fabulous wealth for the rest of his days. Michael Crichton's technothrillers, as much as I enjoy them, often suffer from wooden characters. This book most definitely does not. Pierce, the surprisingly (sometimes infuriatingly) engaging hero/villian, is beautifully written and the cast of characters surrounding him comes colorfully alive, even for those who play relatively minor roles. The dialog written in dialect and the wealth of historical and cultural detail add texture, and the plot works well but it's the characters that make this story such a pleasure to read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 12, 2004
Michael Crichton¿s The Great Train Robbery will take you to the underground world of betrayal and surviving as you witness, first-hand, the most intriguing money hoist in history. You will travel with Edward Pierce, the mastermind, and discover how he puts together specialists to complete the hoist. In the shaggy town of London, a train always leaves at the same time carrying two safes loaded with about two million dollars worth of gold. Legend has it that these safes are inpenetrateble, but of course, it never ends to compel criminals all over the city. One of those criminals is Edward Pierce. A criminal legend, he comes out of jail and plans this crime from the ground up. He goes around the city, offering his old partners in crime a portion of the money if they accept. The crew he chooses includes Robert Agar, the locksmith; Clean Willy Williams, the snakesman (a little kid who can squeeze into really tight spaces); Barlow, a big man who can carry a lot of weight; and Miss Miriam, who helps in setting up distractions. It takes him six years to plan the whole crime, from the train schedules to the drop-off points to the breaking of the safes. He has one problem though: there are two locks on each safe, and there are two safes, which means four keys to find. When he indirectly asks Fowler, the Bank¿s general manager, about them, he learns that they were split up into three locations: two in the train office, one with Mr. Trent, the bank¿s president, and one with Fowler. You will witness his creative ways he uses to obtain the keys, and his plot to rob the train. The main character in this novel, Edward Pierce, is very well rounded, with plenty of sides to him. He can instantly change from friend to foe. One day he might have a drink with you, and another day he might send his mafia at you to kill you. The other characters are flat. Their personalities remain hidden throughout the story, barely any feelings depicted. The overall setting of the novel contributes to the behavior of the characters. For example, if the police are chasing you all the time, and everybody you know might be an accomplice for them, you are most likely going to watch your back all the time, trusting no one. And that is what Edward Pierce did. When Clean Willy turns bad on him, he immediately sends over Barlow to end his small misery. Even though he had experience in crime, his plot ran into its share of problems, ranging from the local authority to treachery from his accomplices. Michael Crichton does it again, leaving you literally not being able to put the book down. Even though an excessive amount of information on Victorian society was written, it heightened the story by recreating that society in your head, so that every move and thought that the characters commit to has a meaning.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 8, 2003
¿A work of intelligence and craftsmanship¿ Written with grace and wit.¿ This quote comes from the Los Angeles Times. I wouldn¿t go that far but the book had its ups and downs. Like most books it doesn¿t start out slow it gets right into the mix of things. After it starts the pace doesn¿t change much it stays at about the same throughout the whole book. It starts out explaining the preparations for the heist telling who is going to do what and when/how they are going to do it. They run it to some conflicts with these preparations. They need four keys to get into the safe they are going to rob. They fix this by finding out who has the keys and where they keep their key. After they find this out they need a good snake man (a guy that can fit into small places and maneuver very quickly without being noticed) the only good one they know of is in jail so they have to get him out. After successfully doing this they snag 2 of the keys from the train station that was very well protected. Then they got another key from the bank owner that kept his key in his wine cellar in his basement. Getting this key took a lot of planning and sneaking but they some how pull it off. The fourth key is probably the easiest because the guy in charge of things had a key himself this made it a little easier. After they had all of the keys they had to plan a time and date for the grand faunally. They ran into some problems after the keys and all of the plans were finished. The day before they had planned to have the heist there was a good amount of rare wine on the train and it was stolen so this made the security on the train more tight. So they had to change their plans the day before they were gonna do the pull. These plans consisted of a coffin a man in the coffin and a crying lady. As the book winded down it left you waiting for more. I liked how Crichton told about the next chapter in the previous one. It made the book better but it got kind of boring and almost made me tired of it. But it was worth it in the end and it actually helped a lot with understanding what was going on.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2002
This book suprised me by the way it's just like the recent movie, 'Ocean's Eleven.' Anyway, it's a great book about a clever criminal Edward Pierce who hires a few rag-tag accomplices to aid him his amazing robbery on a London train. He keeps you intrested in the book by making the chapters short and easy to read as well. Overall, this book was pretty good.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 3, 2002
Posted November 2, 2000
At first appearances The Great Train Robbery looks like any other crime novel. Yet, once you have read the first couple of chapters you understand this book is like none other. There is mystery and intrigue from page one. This book takes you on a world wind train robbery, and unlike other crime novels this books has you pulling for the bad guy. The book holds your attention from the first couple of pages and never lets it go. This book also takes you on every part if the train robbing planning. No little step of the planning is left out and every little detail is included. This book is a must buy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.