A naïve 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.