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Why is the Victoria Line so hot? What is an Electrical Multiple Unit? Is it really possible to ride from King's Cross to King's Cross on the Circle line?
The London Underground is the oldest, most sprawling and illogical metropolitan transport system in the world, the result of a series of botch-jobs and improvisations.Yet it transports over one billion passengers every year - and this figure is rising. It is iconic, recognised the world over, and loved and despised by Londoners in equal measure.
Blending reportage, humour and personal encounters, Andrew Martin embarks on a wonderfully engaging social history of London's underground railway system (which despite its name, is in fact fifty-five per cent overground). Underground, Overground is a highly enjoyable, witty and informative history of everything you need to know about the Tube.
Baghdad 1917. Captain Jim Stringer, invalided from the Western Front, has been dispatched to investigate what looks like a nasty case of treason. He arrives to find a city on the point of insurrection, his cover apparently blown - and his only contact lying dead with flies in his eyes. As Baghdad swelters in a particularly torrid summer, the heat alone threatens the lives of the British soldiers who occupy the city. The recently ejected Turks are still a danger - and many of the local Arabs are none too friendly either.
For Jim, who is not particularly good in warm weather, the situation grows pricklier by the day. Aside from his investigation, he is working on the railways around the city. His boss is the charming, enigmatic Lieutenant-Colonel Shepherd, who presides over the gracious dining society called The Baghdad Railway Club - and who may or may not be a Turkish agent. Jim's search for the truth brings him up against murderous violence in a heat-dazed, labyrinthine city where an enemy awaits around every corner.
'A brilliant murder mystery set in Edwardian London about a railway line that runs only to a massive cemetery.' Daily Mirror
When railwayman Jim Stringer moves to the garish and tawdry London of 1903, he finds his duties are confined to a mysterious graveyard line. The men he works alongside have formed an instant loathing for him - and his predecessor has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Can Jim work out what is going on before he too is travelling on a one-way coffin ticket aboard the Necropolis Railway?
'Guaranteed to make the flesh creep and the skin crawl, a masterful novel about a mad, clanking, fog-bound world.' Simon Winchester
'A murderous conspiracy of a plot graced with style, wit and the sharp, true taste of a time gone by ... So beautifully nuanced and so effortlessly pleasurable to read that you almost want to keep it a personal secret.' Independent on Sunday
Night trains have long fascinated us with the possibilities of their private sleeping compartments, gilded dining cars, champagne bars and wealthy travellers. Authors from Agatha Christie to Graham Greene have used night trains to tell tales of romance, intrigue and decadence against a rolling background of dramatic landscapes. The reality could often be as thrilling: early British travellers on the Orient Express were advised to carry a revolver (as well as a teapot).
In Night Trains, Andrew Martin attempts to relive the golden age of the great European sleeper trains by using their modern-day equivalents. This is no simple matter. The night trains have fallen on hard times, and the services are disappearing one by one. But if the Orient Express experience can only be recreated by taking three separate sleepers, the intriguing characters and exotic atmospheres have survived. Whether the backdrop is 3am at a Turkish customs post, the sun rising over the Riviera, or the constant twilight of a Norwegian summer night, Martin rediscovers the pleasures of a continent connected by rail. By tracing the history of the sleeper trains, he reveals much of the recent history of Europe itself. The original sleepers helped break down national barriers and unify the continent. Martin uncovers modern instances of European unity - and otherwise - as he traverses the continent during 'interesting times', with Brexit looming. Against this tumultuous backdrop, he experiences his own smaller dramas, as he fails to find crucial connecting stations, ponders the mystery of the compartment dog, and becomes embroiled in his very own night train whodunit.
North East India, 1923. On the broiling Night Mail from Calcutta to Jamalpur, a man is shot dead in a first class compartment. Detective Inspector Jim Stringer was sleeping in the next compartment along. Was he the intended target? Jim should have known that his secondment to the East Indian Railway, with a roving brief to inspect security arrangements, would not be the working holiday he had hoped for. The country seethes with political and racial tension. Aside from the Jamalpur shooting, someone is placing venomous snakes - including giant king cobras - in the first class compartments of the railway.
Jim also has worries on the home front: his daughter has formed a connection with a Maharajah's son, who may in turn have a connection to Jim's incredibly rude colleague, the bristling Major Fisher. Jim must do everything he can to keep his family safe from harm, as he unravels the intrigues that surround him...
'A steamy whodunnit . . . This may well be the best fiction about the railways since Dickens.' Independent on Sunday
'Genuinely gripping . . . The sort of thing D. H. Lawrence might have written had he been less verbose or been blessed with a sense of humour.' Peter Parker, Evening Standard (Books of the Year)
A superbly atmospheric thriller of sabotage, suspicion and steam, The Blackpool Highflyer brings a new twist to tales of Edwardian England and amateur sleuthing. Assigned to drive holidaymakers to the seaside resort of Blackpool in the hot summer of 1905, Jim Stringer is happy to have left behind the grime and danger of life in London. But his dreams of beer and pretty women are soon shattered - when his high-speed train meets a huge millstone on the line . . .
'A clear winner in literary crime writing . . . Dazzling attention to detail and quality writing from one of our best contemporary male novelists.' Daily Express
In the heroic days of rail travel, you could dine on kippers and champagne aboard the Brighton Belle; smoke a post-prandial cigar as the Golden Arrow closed in on Paris, or be shaved by the Flying Scotsman's on-board barber. Everyone from schoolboys to socialites knew of these glamorous 'named trains' and aspired to ride aboard them.
In Belles and Whistles, Andrew Martin recreates these famous train journeys by travelling aboard their nearest modern day equivalents. Sometimes their names have survived, even if only as a footnote on a timetable leaflet, but what has usually - if not always - disappeared is the extravagance and luxury. As Martin explains how we got from there to here, evocations of the Golden Age contrast with the starker modern reality: from monogrammed cutlery to stirring sticks, from silence on trains to tannoy announcements, from compartments to airline seating. For those who wonder whatever happened to porters, dining cars, mellow lighting, timetables, luggage in advance, trunk murders, the answers are all here.
Martin's five journeys add up to an idiosyncratic history of Britain's railways, combining humour, historical anecdote and reportage from the present and romantic evocations of the past.
On the first day of the Somme enlisted railwayman Jim Stringer lies trapped in a shell hole, smoking cigarette after cigarette under the bullets and the blazing sun. He calculates his chances of survival - even before they departed for France, a member of Jim's unit had been found dead.
During the stand-off that follows, Jim and his comrades must operate by night the vitally important trains carrying munitions to the Front, through a ghostly landscape of shattered trees where high explosive and shrapnel shells rain down. Close co-operation and trust are vital. Yet proof piles up of an enemy within, and as a ferocious military policeman pursues his investigation into the original killing, the finger of accusation begins to point towards Jim himself . . .
'An enticing and clever book, inside and out' Book Of The Month - The Times
In August, an artist is found murdered in his home - stabbed with a pair of scissors. Matthew Harvey's death is much discussed in the city. The scissors are among the tools of his trade - for Harvey is a renowned cutter and painter of shades, or silhouettes, the latest fashion in portraiture. It soon becomes clear that the murderer must be one of the artist's last sitters, and the people depicted in the final six shades made by him become the key suspects. But who are they? And where are they to be found?
Later, in November, a clever but impoverished young gentleman called Fletcher Rigge languishes in the debtor's prison, until a letter arrives containing a bizarre proposition from the son of the murdered man. Rigge is to be released for one month, but in that time, he must find the killer. If he fails, he will be incarcerated again, possibly for life.
And so, with everything at stake, and equipped only with copies of the distinctive silhouettes, Fletcher Rigge begins his search across the snow-covered city, and enters a world of shadows...
'Unerringly sharp and pioneeringly original, it locks the reader in from start to finish.' Andrew Barrow, Spectator
Winter, 1906. It's Jim Stringer's first day as an official railway detective, but he's not a happy man.
As the rain falls incessantly on the city's ancient streets, the local paper carries a story highly unusual by York standards: two brothers have been shot to death.
Soon Jim enters the orbit of a dangerous, disturbed villain - and discovers that the two murders are barely the start of his plans . . .
'A cracking good thriller.' Independent on Sunday
'Crime narratives dispatched with a Dickensian relish . . . Delectable stuff.' Daily Express
'Has the charm of Alexander McCall Smith's simple-is-good philosophising and its addictive quality.' Metro
A riveting new adventure for Jim Stringer, Andrew Martin's celebrated 'Steam Detective'.
It is March 1914, and Jim Stringer is uneasy about his next assignment.
It's not so much the prospect of a Scarborough lodging house in the gloomy off-season that bothers him, or even the fact that the last railwayman to stay in the house has disappeared without trace. It's more that his governor, Chief Inspector Saul Weatherhill, seems to be deliberately holding back details of the case - and that he's been sent to Scarborough with a trigger-happy assistant.
The lodging house is called Paradise, but, as Jim discovers, it's hardly that in reality. It is, however, home to the seductive and beautiful Amanda Rickerby, a woman evidently capable of derailing Jim's marriage - and a good deal more besides.
As a storm brews in Scarborough, it becomes increasingly unlikely that Jim will ever ride the train back to York.
'Crime dispatched with a Dickensian relish . . . Delectable stuff.' Daily Express
'[Andrew Martin] is an original voice and the historical novels are the best I have read this century.' Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe
'A highly enjoyable game of cat-and-mouse with perfect period texture and some nicely wry humour' The Guardian
'This playful caper is equally successful as a detailed, culture-rich evocation of its period and an English reworking of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley' The Sunday Times
In Belgravia in the heat of summer, Lee Jones, a faded and embittered rock star, is checking out a group of women through the heavy cigarette smoke in a crowded pub. He makes eye contact with one, and winks. After allowing glances to linger for a while longer, he finally moves towards her.
In that moment, his programme of terror - years in the making - has begun.
Months later, the first of the many chilling headlines to come appears: 'Police hunting winking killer.'
Meanwhile in France.
Charles Underhill, a wealthy Englishman living in Paris, has good reason to be interested in the activities of the so-called Winking Killer. With a past to hide and his future precarious, Charles is determined to discover the Winker's identity.
In the overheating cities of London, Oxford, Paris and Nice, a game of cat and mouse develops, and catching someone's eye becomes increasingly perilous. But if no one dares look, a killer can hide in plain sight . . .
From 'a master of historical crime fiction' (The Guardian), The Winker is a gripping thriller that won't let you look away.