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

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  599 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
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 t ...more
Hardcover, 339 pages
Published November 10th 2011 by The Overlook Press (first published November 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,851)
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Nancy Oakes
It's insomnia time again so I'm managing to get quite a bit of reading done while I'm miserable. If I must rate this book, it's about a 3.2. More at my reading journal here.

The crime under study here is in England, 1864, and begins with a train stop at the "midway point on the line" between Fenchurch Street and Chalk Farm. As a train guard is fretting over being behind schedule while the train is stopped at Hackney Station, he hears a "commotion" at the front of the train. Two bank employees h
Jill Hutchinson
Jan 02, 2016 Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In mid-Victorian England, the railway was coming into its own as a method of travel and opened up the country which previously had used carriages taking days to reach their destinations. The problem with the passenger train was the design....the first class carriage was basically a box in which the traveler was locked without any egress nor any way to contact the porter or other train employees if something was amiss. And this error in judgement by the rail companies led to the first railway mur ...more
Dec 16, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
The London underground railway, the first in the world opened with great fanfare in 1863. This is an account of the first railway murder that occurred only a year later in 1864 and created a great sensation as Londoners realised that they were not safe on this form of public transport. The first trains had no corridor for internal travel between compartments and passengers had no way of calling for help if assaulted. Mr Briggs, a 69 y old banking clerk was travelling home from Fenchurch station ...more
Oct 01, 2015 Isabel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Neste livro, a autora, Kate Colquhoun, relata-nos a história do assalto e assassinato (brutal) de Thomas Briggs, em 1864, o primeiro crime deste género num comboio britânico.
É um livro interessante, com alguns momentos algo repetitivos, apoiado na documentação de uma época vincada pelo jornalismo sensacionalista, onde a investigação criminal criava destaque na resolução (muitas vezes dúbia) de actos violentos.
Jan 15, 2012 Marleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On 9 July 1864 two bank clerks enter a first class train compartment only to discover that it is covered in blood, with no sign of an injured person or body although they do find a walking stick, an empty leather bag and a hat.
Shortly afterwards Thomas Briggs, a senior bank clerk, is found, fatally injured a short way back along the railway line. When Briggs dies without regaining consciousness shortly, a murder investigation commences.
The investigation is headed by Richard Tanner of the still r
May 10, 2015 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Thomas Briggs was killed on a train in 1864. Here Colquhoun tells the true story of the investigation and trial into who was responsible.

The book often doesn't feel like a non-fiction book due to the style it is written in. It is told pretty much as a narrative from the night of the murder right the way through the investigation up until a hanging. It does a good job at telling us what the people involved were like and the use of contemporary sources within the text is clever. Real quotes are w
Linda Karlsen
Jan 27, 2013 Linda Karlsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jeg har næsten på forhånd besluttet mig for at jeg kan lide bogen, når den handler om en virkelig "krimi-historie" fra det victorianske England. Under læsningen var der intet der trak ned i min fascination af historien og måden den formidles på.
Det er for mig ikke spændingen om udfaldet der er i centrum, men beskrivelserne af efterforskningen, samfundet, befolkningens ageren, baggrunde for at man gjorde som man gjorde osv. Og her blev jeg ikke skuffet.
Kent Weatherby
Oct 26, 2013 Kent Weatherby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great 'who dunnit' set in England and the US during Civil War times. It gives us some feeling for what went on in the country besides the war. As a lawyer I found the New York extradition proceedings disturbing. You won't know for certain if the London police caught the perpetrator until the very last page. Read it - you'll like it.
Oct 25, 2011 Lex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
A book that started promisingly but then became so mired in petty detail and endless repetition that I lost interest. Well-written and researched but I didn't feel the case was interesting enough to require such an in-depth study.
V. Briceland
The murder of Mr. Thomas Briggs in a locked first-class railway carriage might have been the London trial everyone talked about in 1864, but Kate Coquhoun's account is not as sensational as the title implies. It's a sturdy and dutiful piece of research, to be sure, with an abundance of hats in evidence. Missing hats. Bloodied hats. Crushed hats. Hats with new lining. Hats that had been sewn and not glued. It's a Victorian shell game, with a murderer hidden beneath Colquhoun's avalanche of hats.

Mar 24, 2013 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Accounts of infamous historical crimes and trials have become quite a popular genre of late, and I can see why. This is the third or fourth of such books that I have read with enormous enjoyment. Allowing the reader an insight into the workings of the police force and justice system, on which so much of what happens today is based, is endlessly fascinating. I love flicking through the old photographs and always enjoy the excerpts of newspaper reports from the time. It is these details that bring ...more
Pat Gerber-Relf
A lot of books have been written going into details about crimes committed in the 19th century. This one is not really out of the ordinary, but in my case interesting as the place where the murder took place was an area which I knew quite well as I lived there in the first 20 years of my life. The East End of London has changed a lot over the years. I was surprised to read about a railway line existing where the murder was comitted, with station names Hackney Wick, Bethnal Green etc. Trains were ...more
David Williams
May 21, 2013 David Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must admit to a certain initial prejudice against purchasing this book because, having read the blurb, it seemed to me an attempt to cash in on the success of Kate Summerscale's excellent 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher'. Indeed Jack Whicher is mentioned in these pages as a contemporary of the detective Inspector Richard Tanner who is the chief investigator of the murder of Thomas Briggs in a Victorian railway carriage, the subject of Kate Colquhon's book. It's certainly true that the Colquhon s ...more
Apr 04, 2012 Geevee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very well researched and informative - enjoyable too - account of the first murder on Britain's railways in the 1860s. The case is itself interesting as the book recounts the detectives' quest to piece together the events leading to Thomas Briggs' death and then the journey (literally) to apprehend the main suspect.

What made the book of even greater interest for me was the social aspects relating to the victim and suspect, plus the police work involved.

The police work - the case and
There seems to be a big of a vogue at the moment for Victorian true crime - I'm thinking of 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher', 'Mrs Robinson's Diary' etc. Personally I think it's a fascination with the curiosity dichotomy of Victorian life - that respectable exterior versus the seedy underbelly, the dignity and restraint verse the morbid ghoulishness. And what can I say, I'm a sucker for all of that.

This book charts the case of the murder of Mr Thomas Briggs, a respectable middle-class City banker,
Nov 16, 2011 Cate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london
This was okay. It started fairly briskly but got kind of bogged down as the narrative went on. Thomas Briggs was found dead on the railway tracks having been assaulted & either was either thrown or fell from the train. The clues were few & far between and police investigation by detectives was still in its infancy. Ultimately a young man, Thomas Mueller became the chief person of interest and was ultimately extradited from the USA where he sailed to shortly after the death of Briggs. The ...more
Learnin Curve
Started promising enough but then fell flat.

Warning. The second set of pictures ruin the ending.
Julie Cohen
Interesting—I like how Colquhoun related this murder case to contextual Victorian concerns and legislation about the railways, defence trial procedure, and capital punishment.
Valerie Bird
Jan 15, 2015 Valerie Bird rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Mr Briggs Hat’ by Kate Colquhoun is the most intriguing book, a work of historical research which is entirely factual but reads like a thrilling novel. This is the first murder to take place in the carriage of a railway train, sensational because of the extraordinary circumstances, a closed carriage, no evidence of a weapon, and the fear and suspicion which existed at the time of this relatively new fangled method of transport. That it took place in a first class carriage of a man of respectabi ...more
Nov 20, 2015 Sandra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I saw a this story on TV once and was intrigued so I read this book, but for some reason it was not my style. Interesting but still felt a bit like a overgrown newspaper article.
Merryl Todd
Compared sometimes unfavourably with the Suspicions of Mr Wicher but this is a good book in its own right. Well researched and written.
Aug 10, 2015 BRNTerri rated it really liked it

MY THOUGHTS: This was a very detailed, well researched and descriptive account of the crime but not as exciting as I was expecting. That's not the authors fault, though. When I get a book that sounds so interesting I build it up so big in my head, telling myself it's going to be the greatest book ever, and I end up let down.

I just wish there had been sketches of the key players in the case, especially of the killer, German immigrant Franz Müller. He's described as being twenty-three, not very ta
Janne Varvára
This book, detailing the murder of a rich, elderly man, Thomas Briggs, in a first-class Victorian railway compartment and the conviction of his might or might-not-be murderer is a bit of an anticlimax. Brilliant, you think, it'll be really exciting!
This book details the case nicely, but I feel like I could have been reading Wikipedia instead. It's a case we don't have that many facts on, and where the police never went to much effort to examine all possibilities. The sad thing therefore, is that
Feb 17, 2015 Kavita rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, true-crime
The title of the book is misleading - this is anything but sensational. In fact, it is excruciatingly boring and drawn out. Mr Briggs' Hat: A Sensational Account of Britain's First Railway Murder by Kate Colquhoun is a non-fictional account of a murder that took place in a British railway carriage in 1864. The subject matter is intriguing and could have led to an interesting book, but the author was unable to pull it off.

The book is not a typical True Crime book, which explores the crime in deta
Jun 30, 2011 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This started off really well and became bogged down with technicalities.
May 01, 2015 Sandra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A true crime with an unsatisfying outcome. Mr. Thomas Briggs is a chief clerk at a bank in London. When he takes a late train home to Hackney from work on 9. July 1864, he is attacked and pushed out of the train. He dies from the inflicted wounds in the same night. As Scotland Yard starts the investigation, the story of this gruesome murder is already all over town. The newspapers even pushed the anxiety of people by stating the fact that Briggs was a gentleman traveling first class. If such a c ...more
Jun 19, 2015 Veronikah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
9th of July, 1864. Mr. Briggs enters the train after a family gathering. Little did he know this would be a trip that would go down as the first railway murder that would, not only shock Londoners in general for its brutality, but also cast light upon the long list of awful safety measures (ie: none) existing in English trains at the time.

Coulquhoun takes us on a fantastic journey as she narrates us the moments pre-murder, the findings of the crime scene, the clues and the body, the investigatio
Emmanuel Gustin
Jul 08, 2012 Emmanuel Gustin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history_britain
This account of the investigation of the murder of Thomas Briggs, in a railway carriage in 1864, has one big disadvantage: We will never know what actually happened, and Kate Colquhoun refuses to speculate. On the details of a policy investigation in 19th century London, which expanded as the detectives crossed the ocean in search of their suspect, her book is both informative and a pleasure to read. The section on the trial and execution of Franz Mueller is long and grim, and calculated to brin ...more
Mar 21, 2013 Damaskcat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Briggs was attacked and ejected from a railway carriage in July 1864. His injuries were severe and he subsequently died from them without regaining consciousness. He was a banker and had done well for himself during his life. He was seventy when he died, taking the secrets of the attack to his grave. The alarm was first raised by fellow employees of the bank when they got into the railway carriage and found it spattered with blood. About the same time Briggs was discovered on the railway ...more
This was an absolutely fascinating book and much, much more than a Victorian Whodunnit. The vivid descriptions of life in London, life of a poor, striving, skilled immigrant at a time when the population explosion hit England, modern technologies were changing society were excellent, as were the subtle comparisons between middle class and working class expectations, lifestyles and access to justice.

We are tumbled from growing, modern, but staid and prim London to rough and ready, grasping, exci
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Kate Colquhoun was born in Ireland in 1964. She is married to literary agent David Miller and lives in west London. They have two sons.
More about Kate Colquhoun...

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