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

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  425 ratings  ·  84 reviews
In July 1864, Thomas Briggs was traveling home after visiting his niece and her husband for dinner. 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 ...more
Hardcover, 339 pages
Published November 10th 2011 by Overlook Books (first published 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,170)
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Carolyn
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
Marleen
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
...more
Linda Karlsen
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.
Lex
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.
Ali
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
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
Geevee
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
...more
Caroline
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,
...more
Cate
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
‘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
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
...more
Kavita
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
...more
Christine
This started off really well and became bogged down with technicalities.
Emmanuel Gustin
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
Damaskcat
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
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.

S
...more
Ruth
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
...more
Michael Moseley
" A sensational account of Britain's first Railway Murder" This was a gift from Lou and Carl which was a great read of discovery about the parts of London that were important to me. It contacted quite a few facts that I had not known, like the fact that the north London line ran out of Fenchurch Street not Broad Street which did not open until much later. Clapton square where I nearly bought a house was Mr Briggs upmarket house. Hackney station was surrounded by watercress fields. What a differe ...more
Wealhtheow
In 1864, a train's first-class carriage was discovered to be empty of passengers but liberally smeared in blood. Some hours later, the original occupant was found--dead, his body discarded near the train tracks. The police tracked his stolen top hat and watch chain through the pawn shops of London, and quickly zeroed in on a suspect: a poor German tailor. But by the time they discovered his identity, Franz Müller had already gotten on a ship to America (currently in the throes of their Civil War ...more
Ariel
I have been fascinated by the idea of a murder occurring on a train ever since Murder on the Orient Express. Being a true crime buff, because truth is often stranger than fiction, and also a fan of Victorian London, I thought this would be right up my alley. In truth it was very dry, like week old toast dry. Not even butter and jelly could have saved it.

The novel relates the true tale of poor Mr. Briggs. One night while heading home on a train he never reaches his destination. All that is left b
...more
Angel
This book started out very interesting, but it got somewhat tiresome by the time I got to the end. It is the story of the first murder in a railway private car in England. The manhunt comes all the way to the United States during the Civil War. As another commenter I read pointed out, the book's author makes a better case than the British Crown representatives ever did with the man accused of the crime.

Readers who enjoy Victorian crime fiction may like this book. Readers of true crime books may
...more
Sarah
Thoroughly deserved 5 stars for one of my best reads of this year. This book delivers exactly as promised...a 'sensational' account of the murder of Thomas Briggs, and subsequent detection, dramatic pursuit, capture, arrest, trial, sentence and execution of the murderer (wont reveal his name!). It also brilliantly contextualises the murder in the wider Victorian society as a whole, allowing readers to understand the fear caused by this, a senseless and unprovoked attack of a repectable and well- ...more
Christiane
The U.S. Edition I just finished reading has a much duller cover...I think most people (those not obsessed with Victorian-era crime as I am) will be more likely to pick up this one! In July 1864, Mr. Thomas Briggs was seen sitting in his first-class railway carriage; shortly after, blood was found splattered around the now empty compartment. The brutal crime shocked the English public and captured the public imagination even more when the suspect fled on a ship to America (and thanks to the pres ...more
J
Well written. Nice shorter chapters. Kept my interest, which is always a challenge with non-fiction. An interesting look at Victorian times, society and law enforcement methods. There was an interesting cross over to New York in Civil War times too. It illustrates the frustrating redundancies that exist in legal systems, even back in the 1860's - if the author is accurate.

It fell apart at the very end, when the author asserted that the final trial had errors and tried to turn the story into an i
...more
Gerry
When Thomas Briggs boarded the 9.45 train from Fenchurch Street to Hackney, little did he realise that he was walking into history as he became the first murder victim on the railway.

It was a somewhat bizarre murder and the discovery also was a little strange. It was not surprising, therefore, to learn that the chase to catch the killer was also rather odd.

A chase across the Atlantic ensued, capture, return to England and trial. All the time there were conflicting stories about what had happened
...more
Lizixer
Well researched true crime with a lot of useful background detail about the effect of the railways on Victorian Society and the panic that this case caused for users of this new form of transport - the crime itself presents some questions that remain without a satisfactory answer to this day
Karen
Interesting story but I found the writing steady, plodding, and repetitive, like a slow train: did he do it? did he do it? did he do it? did he do it?
I finished it but, I have to admit, I was ready to disembark before we got to the final stop.
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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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