Murder in the First-Class Carriage: The First Victorian Railway Killing

Murder in the First-Class Carriage: The First Victorian Railway Killing

by Kate Colquhoun
     
 

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In July 1864, Thomas Briggs was traveling home after visiting his niece and her husband for dinner.
He boarded a first-class carriage on the 9:45 pm Hackney service of the North London railway. At Hackney, two bank clerks discovered blood in the seat cushions as well as on the floor, windows, and sides of the carriage. A bloodstained hat was found on the

Overview

In July 1864, Thomas Briggs was traveling home after visiting his niece and her husband for dinner.
He boarded a first-class carriage on the 9:45 pm Hackney service of the North London railway. At Hackney, two bank clerks discovered blood in the seat cushions as well as on the floor, windows, and sides of the carriage. A bloodstained hat was found on the seat along with a broken link from a watch chain. The race to identify the killer and catch him as he fled on a boat to America was eagerly followed by the public on both sides of the Atlantic. Kate Colquhoun tells a gripping tale of a crime that shocked the era.

Editorial Reviews

The Independent

"An enthralling account of a real life mystery . . . Her well-told tale would stand up in court--unlike much of the evidence in the case."

Library Journal
Colquhoun (A Thing in Disguise: The Visionary Life of Joseph Paxton) details a true "crime of the century." In 1864, banker Thomas Briggs was the first person to be murdered on a British train. To mitigate public outcry and panic, Scotland Yard moved swiftly to identify the suspect, German tailor Franz Müller. Colquhoun details the transatlantic pursuit. Though Müller left for New York a few days after the murder, two groups of detectives and witnesses followed swiftly, and both arrived well before the suspect. News also traveled slowly as it, too, went via ship. Müller was extradited to London, tried, convicted, and hung, his case based on strong circumstantial evidence. Foreshadowing O.J. Simpson's famous glove, this case revolved around hats—Müller ended up in possession of Briggs's hat, while his own hat may have been the one left in Briggs's locked first-class rail carriage. VERDICT Interested readers might also enjoy Andrew Martin's "Jim Stringer" series of railway mysteries. Colquhoun's narrative will appeal to British, rail, and legal historians. She does an excellent job of describing the case and the times. Highly recommended.—Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews
Account of the first Victorian railway murder in Britain, and how the broader historical events surrounding the crime shaped the hunt for a killer. Colquhoun (The Thrifty Cookbook, 2011, etc.) examines the murder of Thomas Briggs in July 1864 as he was traveling on the North London railway. Violently attacked, Briggs was discovered near death on the train tracks, his compartment soaked in blood. The evidence was slim; only a bloodstained hat and a broken watch chain found in the compartment provided any clues for the investigation into the killer. Colquhoun's narrative takes readers from London to New York City and then back again as the police race to identify Briggs' murderer and bring him to justice. The author's suspenseful writing style and clear prose make the tale easy to read, but occasionally the story can become dry due to the amount of information packed into the book. Colquhoun includes quotes from the historical record and seamlessly weaves them into her story, but at times these details can become overwhelming--e.g., the author's account of the extradition hearing is unnecessarily long. However, Colquhoun expertly places the murder within the larger context of British, Continental European and American history. The book ends with a look at the changes wrought by Briggs' killing and the ensuing trial. Despite the occasional slow spots, Colquhoun successfully balances suspense with historical accuracy.
Sarah Halzack
Relying largely on primary sources, Kate Colquhoun's Murder in the First-Class Carriage sketches the moves of London detectives as they worked to solve the case and bring the perpetrator to justice. It reads like a 19th-century version of a Law & Order episode, with every break in the case making the reader wonder which witnesses are fallible, which leads are worth following, and what clues the police may have missed or botched. It adds up to a suspenseful, well-paced account of a baffling mystery.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"Colquhoun's work is an exquisite cautionary tale, as valuable today as it is telling of then." —Salon

"A suspenseful, well-paced account of a baffling mystery." —Washington Post

"Ms. Colquhoun's meticulously researched true-crime account, first published in England, is a tick-tock of the arrest and trial of a German tailor following a chase across the Atlantic…its final revelation is a showstopper." —New York Times

"Colquhoun's narrative will appeal to British, rail, and legal historians. She does an excellent job of describing the case and the times. Highly recommended." —Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590206751
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
11/10/2011
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
975,725
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.18(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"Colquhoun's work is an exquisite cautionary tale, as valuable today as it is telling of then." —Salon

"A suspenseful, well-paced account of a baffling mystery." —Washington Post

"Ms. Colquhoun's meticulously researched true-crime account, first published in England, is a tick-tock of the arrest and trial of a German tailor following a chase across the Atlantic…its final revelation is a showstopper." —New York Times

"Colquhoun's narrative will appeal to British, rail, and legal historians. She does an excellent job of describing the case and the times. Highly recommended." —Library Journal

Meet the Author

Kate Colquhoun is the author of Murder in the First-Class Carriage. Her previous works have been nominated for the Duff Cooper Prize, the Samuel Johnson Prize and the CWA Gold Dagger Award. She writes regularly for numerous publications, including the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. She lives in London.

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