The Necropolis Railway (Jim Stringer Series #1)

( 2 )

Overview

Bright and ambitious, young Jim Stringer moves from the English countryside to London deter- mined to become a railway man. It is 1903, the dawn of the Edwardian age, when steam runs the nation and the railways drive progress. Jim can’t believe his luck to have gotten his foot in the door at South East Railway, run out of Waterloo Station. He finds, however, that his duties involve a graveyard shift, literally—a railway line that takes coffins from London morgues to the gigantic new cemeteries being dug in the ...

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Overview

Bright and ambitious, young Jim Stringer moves from the English countryside to London deter- mined to become a railway man. It is 1903, the dawn of the Edwardian age, when steam runs the nation and the railways drive progress. Jim can’t believe his luck to have gotten his foot in the door at South East Railway, run out of Waterloo Station. He finds, however, that his duties involve a graveyard shift, literally—a railway line that takes coffins from London morgues to the gigantic new cemeteries being dug in the city’s outskirts. He also learns that his predecessor had disappeared and that his coworkers seem to have formed an instant loathing for him. Forced to live by his wits and to arrive at his own deductions—assisted by his landlady, for whom he falls— he tries to figure out what is going on before he is issued a one-way ticket on the Necropolis Railway.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Guaranteed to make the flesh creep and the skin crawl. A masterful novel about a mad, clanking, fog-bound world."—Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman and The Map That Changed the World

"A classy potboiler . . . in the best traditions of Dickens and Collins (let alone Christie and Chandler)."—The Times (London)

Booklist
"The atmosphere is first-rate: Martin does a stunning job of bringing to life the era when steam locomotives chugged from London through the British countryside...The lurid tone and Jim's growing uneasiness lead to a supremely scary climax."
The Seattle Times
"Andrew Martin succeeds brilliantly at re-creating a railwayman's lot."
Publishers Weekly
First published in the U.K. in 2002, Martin's U.S. debut offers smooth prose, but suffers from its callow, 19-year-old protagonist, Jim Stringer. In 1903, Stringer leaves York for London to make something of himself on the railway, a consuming passion of his for years. Despite his letter of reference from a director of the London and South Western Railway, Stringer receives a hostile reception at Necropolis Railway and is soon delegated to dirty scut work connected with the transport of coffins to nearby cemeteries. When he learns his predecessor mysteriously disappeared, Stringer pursues an amateur investigation that turns dangerous after several people turn up dead. Basil Copper made better use of the creepy, atmospheric Necropolis Railway setting in his 1980 novel, Necropolis, and the almost impossibly na ve Stringer stumbles on the truth rather than displaying genuine cleverness. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"...This suspense-filled debut...will appeal to those who like mysteries with unusual settings."
Library Journal
It is 1903, and young Jim Stringer leaves rural England for London, seeking to drive locomotives for the South East Railway. His first job is running coffins from city morgues to suburban cemeteries, but Jim learns that his predecessor has disappeared and that he is suspected by his coworkers of being a company spy. If readers can get past the unfamiliar railway jargon, this suspense-filled debut-first published in England in 2002-will appeal to those who like mysteries with unusual settings. Martin lives in London. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A naive young railway man has a chance to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an engine driver, if only he can survive a series of murderous attacks. While working a menial job at a small Yorkshire station, Jim Stringer meets railroad man Rowland Smith, who promises him a job at London's Waterloo Station with a chance for promotion. The London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company runs funeral trains to a vast cemetery it owns outside London. Jim lets a room in a rundown house with an attractive landlady. His first day on the job is much less attractive. He meets with hostility from fellow workers, who leave him to sink or swim in the stygian, bewildering and treacherous bowels of the huge railway complex. The man whose place he has taken disappeared, and another is soon killed in a fishy accident. Jim's job is to work with a leftist-leaning group in disfavor with management, including Rowland Smith, who serves as a director. Jim is clearly meant to be a spy for Smith, who perishes in a suspicious fire. With his own life in danger, Jim is disheartened but not beaten. He and his lovely landlady finally figure out the complex motives behind the crimes. Martin's debut, loaded with railway lore, pairs a lively, often macabre look at turn-of-the-century London with a bang-up mystery. Agent: Simon Trewin/PFD
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156030687
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 1/15/2007
  • Series: Jim Stringer Series , #1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 673,532
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

ANDREW MARTIN was a Spectator (London) Young Writer of the Year and has written for the Guardian , the Daily Telegraph , and Granta . He has a weekly column in the New Statesman . He lives in London.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Saturday 14 November 1903
 
With the letters from Rowland Smith in my pocket, I had a lively ride from York to London: just four and a half hours in all. The engine was one of the new Atlantics of Mr Ivatt, and when she came down Stoke Bank I put aside The Railway Magazine I was reading, and leant out the window at the carriage end to experience the amazing velocity.
After Peterborough I took down my box and opened the parcel my dad had packed for me, which turned out to contain three tubs of Melton cream for my boots, and two tins of Nugget’s polish, also for my boots. My dad was red-hot for smartness, smart boots especially. There was an alarm clock too–which was the next best thing to Dad coming with me because he’d always woken me up himself at home–and a green Lett’s pocket diary, which might seem an out of the way sort of thing to give somebody, November sort of time, but I knew it was the kind of thing Dad would have thought gentlemanly.
I opened the first page, which was headed ‘The King and the Royal Family, showing ages and annuities’, and stared at it for a while, thinking: well, it’s all right, but I would rather have a map of the railways. Then I took out from my pocket the letters from Rowland Smith, which had been sent to me, not from the place he worked, but from his home address: Granville Mansions, Dartmouth Park. Whenever I saw that I thought with wonder, ‘In the house of the Lord there are many mansions.’ It was in the Northern Division of London. I put the letters away after a few more minutes of marvelling but took them out over and again throughout the journey.
We came into Platform One at King’s Cross, which was as I had expected, but what I had not expected was that half of London would be there, and most of them attempting to force me into the Ladies’ Waiting Room, where I had no right nor any desire to be.
When I finally struggled free, the first thing I saw was the road packed with darting waggons, then, over the road from King’s Cross, and three times the size, St Pancras. I could not believe there had ever been so many bricks in the world–it must have had more than the Eskdale viaduct and I knew for a fact there were more than five million in that. The clock said five to three; I turned back and looked at the clock on King’s Cross, and that said five after, and I thought: now, that is strange, because it was impossible to imagine either the Midland or the Great Northern making a bloomer over the time, of all things, but one of them must have, and it seemed that I was only getting in everybody’s way by standing there and fretting over it.
Then I spied a stream of hansoms pouring out of a little arch at the bottom of St Pancras like beetles from under a stone, and decided I would take one for the first time in my life. But as soon as I stepped into the road between King’s Cross and St Pancras, I was put into another cab – one of a completely separate lot–by a lad who had lately been holding a horse’s head and eating a fish. Now he was tipping his head back, and, blowing spinning bits of fish into the air from his mouth, saying, ‘If this keeps up, we might be in with a fighting chance, eh, guv?’
He was talking about the sun. It had been raining in Yorkshire but the day was set fair in London, and I might just as well have stepped off a boat train, such was the newness and strangeness of it all.
‘Where you off to?’ shouted the fish-eating kid.
I said, ‘Waterloo,’ sounding not like myself, but even the horse seemed to have heard of the place for he set off without coaxing.
There were just too many people in London, and that was all about it. Sooner or later, I thought as we rolled away from King’s Cross, they will have to bring this madness to a halt and get everything put straight. All the buses were marked ‘Vanguard’ and there was no end of motor cars. There was no end of everything else either, so that after a sprint of a start we soon settled down to a crawl, and I added a second half crown to the one I already had in my hand for the fare, fearing the price might be to do with time spent as well as distance covered.
After twenty minutes or so we came up to the river, which was something more like ten rivers side by side, all brown and glittering and packed with rolling, smoking boats, with big factories on the Waterloo side. Through a gap between two of them, I could see the engine shed of Waterloo rising above the factories and houses like a lot of giant greenhouses at an angle to the river, but the greenhouses gave out after a while, and then there were metal girders, and the automatic hammer was somewhere in there: you’d hear the bang, and then the black cloud would come up after every one.
On the other side of that rusty bridge–and I believe that in my excitement I forgot to breathe all the way across–I realised I had gone from what they called the Northern Division to the Southern Division, and when I remembered that Rowland Smith lived in the Northern Division yet worked in the Southern Division, I began to think of that gentleman as being even grander than I had already imagined, and resembling the Colossus of Ancient Greece who stands over whatever river it may be.
We came onto what I now know as Westminster Bridge Road, where trams were surging up to the people like steeplechasers. We had also struck the smell of Waterloo, which came from the station and the chimneys on the river. It was the smell of bad beer, or good pickles, or something that kept you thinking, mingled with engine smoke and another smell that was like the sea captured by factories.
We carried on under a long, low viaduct with a slow-goods hammering overhead, and when we emerged I saw a great vibrating building with steam and smoke rushing out of a line of chimneys. I had thought this would be another factory, but a sign on the roof told me it was the ‘Lambeth Skating Rink’. We did not reach that building, however, but turned sharp right, going immediately under another black viaduct with another goods pounding overhead. This viaduct was enormous, and, when we came out from under, the day was not as bright as it had been before.This dark street, which was called Lower Marsh, was all in the shadow of that great viaduct, and so the people there lived in a world of under and over: under went the houses and shops, the pubs, the people and the lines of stables, and over went the trains with a constant clanging. The shops spilled out into the street and had more goods outside than in: everybody was selling everything to everybody else, and everybody was shouting to make themselves heard over the trains. The most important thing in the street apart from the viaduct seemed to be a round pub called the Citadel: a big, orange-glowing beer-barrel sort of a place with a sign saying Red Lion Ales and Reid’s Stout over and over again–I would soon learn that in London they are never happy to just do something once.
Above the pub, above the street, and really above all, was the great station itself, the spider in the middle of the viaduct web. I knew it to serve the grandest railway in the world, the London and South Western, and yet I was surprised, for there was nothing glorious to it. Waterloo seemed to have no front and no back. It did have a roof–in parts–but there were many huge tarpaulins rising and falling in the dirty breeze over the rambling mass of bricks and glass. Under these great tents, I was sure, they were making the station bigger still, and I did not doubt that it would finish up the mightiest in the Empire. Already, as I knew from The Railway Magazine, Waterloo received 700 trains every day, compared to 250 at King’s Cross. St Pancras received . . . a good many, I did not know the exact number, and I realised, alone in the dark little cab, that it would be a very long time before I would be able to look it up, for I had only brought the latest two numbers of The Railway Magazine in my box.

© Andrew Martin, 2002
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2007

    Three Hours of My Life Are Gone & I Want Them Back

    This was probably the worst book I have read in years. The plot made little to no sense and the author used obscure technical terms without bothering to explain the meanings. For example, I spent most of the book trying to figure out what the heck a footplate was & was never given any hint except that it's part of a steam engine. The hero was a callow, cowardly lump who occasionally used truly foul language regarding women for nothing more than shock value. This book will be boring and offensive to anyone with half a brain and any respect for women. To top it all off, the ending was pulled out of thin air and with very little regard for the intelligence of the reader. Don't waste your time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2007

    An enjoyable period piece accidental detective story

    The slang and focus on railroading can be a bit to bear, but at the same time it's rather ambitious and an interesting read. About as close as I will ever come to watching at work the mind of a very early 20th century young Englishman. The character very much seems a product of his times, whatever that might translate into a century later here in America. I look forward to reading the sequel The Blackpool Highflyer. Don't be put off by the negative review. Like the movie Momento just grin and bear it for about 10 minutes, then it takes off and you keep turning the page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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