The Railway Detective Books in Order: How to read Edward Marston’s series

Inspector Robert Colbeck Books in Order

Aka the Railway Detective series.

Who is Railway Detective about?

Coming from American author Keith Miles (under the pseudonym Edward Marston), the Railway Detective is a series of historical mystery novels.

Set in the Victorian era in Lodon during the 1850s, the series is about Scotland Yard detectives inspector Robert Colbeck and his assistant Sergeant Victor Leeming as they lead investigations connected to the railway.

Railway Detective Books in Order:

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  1. The Railway Detective – London 1851. With the opening of the Great Exhibition at hand, interest is mounting in the engineering triumphs of the railways, but not everyone feels like celebrating… In an audacious attack, the London to Birmingham mail train is robbed and derailed, causing many casualties. Planned with military precision, this crime proves a challenge to Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck who fights to untangle a web of murder, blackmail and destruction.
  2. The Excursion Train – On the shocking discovery of a passenger’s body on the Great Western Railway excursion train, Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and his assistant, Sergeant Victor Leeming, are dispatched to the scene. Faced with what initially appears to be a motiveless murder, Colbeck is intrigued by the murder weapon – a noose. When it emerges that the victim had worked as a public executioner, Colbeck realises that this must be intrinsically linked to the killer’s choice of weapon.
  3. The Railway Viaduct – 1852. Inspector Robert Colbeck and his assistant Sergeant Victor Leeming are faced with their most complex and difficult case to date. As a train speeds over the Sankey Viaduct, a man is hurled from a carriage and plummets into the canal below. It later transpires that he has been stabbed to death. With no papers by which to identify the man, the detectives’ investigation is hampered from the start.
  4. The Iron Horse – Derby Day at Epsom Downs. A multitude of people crowd to watch the races: dukes and dustmen, bishops and beggars, privileged ladies and prostitutes. The gamut of Victorian society and a hotbed for crime and crooks of all kinds. With the nation a-flutter in the run up to this national event, a disembodied head is discovered on a passenger train at Crewe; the first in a murky course of events that takes in murder, fraud and race-fixing. Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and his assistant are assigned to the case and are soon snarled up in a web of skulduggery stretching across the country.

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  1. Murder on the Brighton Express – October, 1854. As crowds of passengers rush to make the departure of the London to Brighton Express, a man watches from the shadows nearby… Chaos, fatalities and unbelieveable destruction are the scene soon after when the train derails just outside the Balcombe Tunnel. Could it simply be a case of driver error? Detective Inspector Colbeck thinks not.
  2. The Silver Locomotive Mystery – When a gruesome murder is committed at the Railway Hotel, Winifred Tomkins is distraught. Caring little for the dead silversmith, all she can think about is her missing treasure. Inspector Colbeck and Sergeant Leeming of the Detective Department are summoned to Wales from London by telegraph and they are soon confronted by some additional crimes.
  3. Railway to the Grave – Yorkshire 1855. Colonel Aubrey Tarleton is a man respected by his neighbours in the small Yorkshire village of South Otterington – as much for his heroic feats in the army as for his social position. So the community is left stunned when Tarleton, deliberately, walks into the path of a speeding train. He is crushed to death on the track, but it is not his broken limbs that attract the attention of the train driver; rather, it is the note pinned to his chest, fluttering in the breeze: ‘Whoever finds me, notify Superintendent Tallis of the Detective Department at Scotland Yard’.
  4. Blood on the Line – 1857. When the Railway Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck learns that Oxley, his arch nemesis, has escaped, black memories of their shared past leave him no choice but to do his duty, whatever the cost. With the faithful Victor Leeming at his side, Colbeck must use all of his skills to track his elusive enemy. But could he have finally met his match?

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  1. The Stationmaster’s Farewell – Guy Fawkes Night, 1857. Joel Heygate is the popular stationmaster at Exeter St David’s railway station – an impressive figure of a man replete with frock coat and top hat, bushy eyebrows and walrus moustache. But when the charred remains of a body are discovered in the embers of the town’s annual Bonfire Night celebration, everyone is horrified when it becomes clear that they belong to Mr Heygate. The South Devon Railway contacts Scotland Yard for their assistance, and Superintendant Edward Tallis sends the Railway Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and his assistant Victor Leeming to Exeter with all due haste.
  2. Peril on the Royal Train – Spring, 1858. The route of the Caledonian Railway through the southern uplands of the Scottish countryside is disrupted by a fatal crash. Inspector Robert Colbeck and Sergeant Victor Leeming are called from the crime of London to investigate, and must contend with old enemy Superintendent Rory McTurk to uncover the criminals behind the disaster.
  3. A Ticket to Oblivion – Summer, 1858. Young Imogen Burnhope and her maid Rhoda board a non-stop train to Oxford to visit Imogen’s Aunt Cassandra, who waits on the platform at the terminus to greet them. All the passengers alight at Oxford, but the two women are nowhere to be seen. The train is searched and the coachman swears he saw them join first class, however they seem to have vanished into thin air.
  4. Timetable of Death – 1859. The mysterious death of Vivian Quayle, director of the Midland Railway and pillar of the community, baffles local police and necessitates Scotland Yard’s assistance. As Inspector Colbeck and Sergeant Leeming piece together the victim’s final moments, and suspects and motives multiply, an unpleasant picture emerges. This is a case only the Railway Detective can solve.

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  1. Signal for Vengeance – 1860, Dorset. A married woman finds some escape from her miserable home life in an affair with another man. But the age-old tale has a new spin put upon it when, en route to a tryst, the wife trips over her dead lover on the railway tracks. Inspector Colbeck is drafted in from London to solve the hideous crime but with no shortage of conflicting alibis and the victim’s sordid past complicating matters, the mystery is hard to fathom.
  2. The Circus Train Conspiracy – After its great success in Carlisle, the Moscardi Circus is travelling by train to Newcastle for its next series of performances. A collision with a couple of sleepers on the track causes pandemonium: passengers are thrown about, animals escape and the future of the circus looks uncertain. When the body of a woman is discovered in woodland nearby, the Railway Detective Inspector Colbeck is despatched to investigate.
  3. A Christmas Railway Mystery – December, 1860. An army of men is heading to the Swindon Locomotive Works for the morning shift from their nearby terraced houses built by the GWR. Frank Rodman should have been among them, but his new destination is the grave – or it will be, once his missing head is found. Christmas is fast approaching, and the last thing Inspector Colbeck needs is a complex case, mired in contradictions.
  4. Points of Danger – East Anglia, 1861. Alone in a first-class carriage, the Swarbricks are robbed at gunpoint. But when the universally admired Swarbrick fights back, the train robber takes more than money and jewellery, killing the man working to unify East Anglia’s tangle of railway networks. Inspector Colbeck is brought in from London, but as Swarbrick’s glowing reputation begins to crumble, the line of investigation isn’t clear. Is this the act of a bungling burglar, a business rival, a disgruntled son or a jealous lover?

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  1. Fear on the Phantom Special – Halloween, 1861. A special train with two carriages steams across the Lake District at night on its way to a place notorious for its record of supernatural incidents. Most of those on board have been fortified by alcohol so the mood is boisterous. Without warning the lamp goes out in the last compartment of the second carriage, plunging it into darkness. When the train reaches the end of the line, the passengers pour out on to the station platform. There are almost sixty of them in all, laughing and jostling, but the prevailing excitement is shattered by a cry for help – someone is missing.
  2. Slaughter in the Sapperton Tunnel – A goods train speeds through the Sapperton Tunnel, but disaster strikes before it can reach the other side as it collides with an unusual blockage on the tracks: seven sheep penned in place. Specially requested to investigate the carnage in Gloucestershire, Inspector Colbeck and Sergeant Leeming are confronted with a bizarre case unlike anything they’ve encountered before.
  3. Tragedy on the Branch Line – When Robert Pomeroy, a young undergraduate at Corpus Christi College, finds a letter slipped under his door in the early hours of a rainy day, he flies into a panic. Hastily readying himself and dashing off a few lines for the porter to summon his friend Nicholas Thorpe, he hurries to the railway station. But he doesn’t reach his destination alive. Inspector Colbeck and Sergeant Leeming are called upon to investigate this tragedy on the railway.

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