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The Great Train Robbery

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  16,223 ratings  ·  692 reviews
Lavish wealth and appalling poverty live side by side in Victorian London—and Edward Pierce easily navigates both worlds. Rich, handsome, and ingenious, he charms the city's most prominent citizens even as he plots the crime of his century—the daring theft of a fortune in gold.

But even Pierce could not predict the consequences of an extraordinary robbery that targets the p
Paperback, 329 pages
Published November 5th 2002 by Avon (first published 1975)
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Dan Schwent
In Victorian London, can Edward Pierce and his cronies pull off a train heist and get away with a fortune in gold bullion?

Like quite a few of my reads over the years, this book appeared on my radar courtesy of Kemper. We were discussing the Breaking Bad episode Dead Freight and he asked if I'd ever read The Great Train Robbery. I said I hadn't and promptly forgot about it for a couple years until I ran across the Great Train Robbery in the local used bookstore.

The Great Train Robbery is a grippi
Henry Avila
In the very proper Victorian days , of the British Empire, a shocking event caused much consternation, eventually called, "The Great Train Robbery", of 1855, the newspapers are stunned, imagine such a crime in this civilized age ! Gold bullion was stolen, from the luggage compartment, and the guaranteed, tamper proof safes, ( were not), of the south bound iron horse, from London, which was meant to arrive on the English coast, put in a ship for France, and later given to the brave soldiers in th ...more
Jun 10, 2012 Dyuti rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dyuti by: Adhip
Reasons why I implore you to check out this book

The Setting: The 1850's, Victorian England. Rich, colourful and detailed, this is one of the most dynamic periods of English history, forever loved by readers both young and old. It was a world of contradictions: beneath the aforementioned richness, lay the pall of poverty, sickness, prostitution and death, harboured by the ongoing Industrial Revolution. The author, Michael Chrichton flits so seamlessly between the two, that it creates a wonderf
Aug 21, 2009 Brad rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Crichton
If I am capable of guilt when it comes to my literary tastes The Great Train Robbery could be a "guilty pleasure," but how can a man who did his honours thesis on Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery feel any guilt over loving The Great Train Robbery?

He can't. And I don't.

It is an exemplar of what I call cinematic writing: novel length prose that the author ultimately intends for the screen.

The characters are skill-based and maleable (sometimes even interchangeable), the chase -- either
Although "The Great Train Robbery" was a real event, I had no idea what it was all about. Sure, I had heard about it (i.e., I knew its name) and was aware that Crichton had written a book (still quite popular) about the theft and that it even inspired a movie of the same name starring Sean Connery.

And after reading this book, I think that being totally ignorant about the event highly paid-off as I enjoyed the book way much more than I had anticipated. It really felt as if the movie "Ocean's Elev
For some reason, whenever someone had mentioned this book to me earlier, I had always pictured a cowboy on horseback chasing down a train in the wild, wild west, complete with a lasso in his hand. I have no idea how I made that relation but the image stuck. And since cowboys and westerns were not really my thing, I had never felt the urge to pick this book up, until now.

Oh, how so very wrong I had been!

You can safely assume I kicked myself a fair number of times after I was about a quarter-way t
Nandakishore Varma
This is the book which introduced me to Michael Crichton, and his inimitable way of mixing fact and fiction so that the borders are blurred, like shading is done in watercolour paintings. I loved it enough to read almost all of his remaining works.

As some critic once said: "Michael Crichton is too serious to be considered a popular writer, and too popular to be considered serious." Spot on.
Author Michael Crichton takes pains to emphasize that, much the same as Clavell's Shogun, this is a work of fiction. Still, it often employs the tone of a history albeit a juicy one. As such it's more of a setting and plot novel than one of characters and relationships. This novel is nonetheless based on the actual thieves and the infamous train robbery of 1855.

The mastermind (Edward Pierce) undertakes to rob a train, which makes a regular run with gold bullion. The booty was locked in two custo
Arun Divakar
The images conjured up by Victorian London have always been the ones I as a reader love reveling in. Horse drawn carriages, gas light lit streets, the upright manners and social norms that put a set of most beastly human urges on a leash, heights of monetary decadence and abject pits of poverty abound in these images that I make up in my mind. One part of why I adore Mr.Holmes, like many others is undoubtedly such an image of London and thereabouts. I wouldn't have been this taken by the detecti ...more
Aug 08, 2013 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Michael Crichton, heists and/or Victorian London
This book had all the ingredients for a great adventure -- a charming rogue for a lead character, an intricate Ocean's Eleven-style heist, a well-drawn Victorian London setting (you could almost feel Sherlock Holmes in the background investigating), and top-notch writing.

However, since it is made clear in the beginning of the novel that the heist was pulled off successfully, the story is lacking any "will they or won't they pull it off" suspense. The fact that the novel is still so gripping and
Ultimately, I felt the dark, underside of London was the main character in this book. And not sure I liked that. On one hand, I learned a great deal about London criminals and the like (some of which I wish I hadn't learned; the dog fights especially, agh!) but I don't feel like I ever really got to know each of the players in the robbery as individual characters, I didn't really care about any of them. And not because they were criminals--just leave it to movies like "Oceans 11" to make crimina ...more
Agatha Diaz
Based on factual accounts through excerpts of the trial, Crichton delivers a fast-paced Victorian crime story. I liked how Crichton set up the story from the inception, to the planning, to the mishaps, and eventually to the execution of The Great Train Robbery. Edward Pierce, the mastermind behind The Great Train Robbery of 1855, is a smart and calculating character. As a reader, I found myself rooting for the bad guy, so to say, as Crichton did a fantastic job telling the story through the eyes ...more
Crime novel on a grand scale, I love how this book covers the plotting and scheming of the robbery. The best comparison I can think of is the ocean eleven, particularly with details like the slang for the jobs typical to this "profession" and the underground roles of people who set these attempts in motion. Its a different spin on the crime with the focus on the criminals and not on those solving the crime. A well written and intriguing suspense novel by a quality author, although this is probab ...more
No one ever churned out a more diverse group of thrillers than Michael Crichton: killer apes in Africa, sea-monsters in the Pacific, cannibals in Scandinavia, dinosaurs in Central America, gangsters in Japan and space plagues in the American Southwest. This guy could write authoritatively about anything and make it fun.

In this page-burner, the author somehow makes locomotives and steam-era technology thrilling. The story is about a real mid-19th Century train heist populated with more effete ari
Alexander Arsov
Michael Crichton

The Great Train Robbery

Avon, Paperback, 2002.

12mo. xx+329 pp. Introduction by Michael Crichton, November 1974 [xiii-xx].

First published, 1975.



Part I

Part II
The Keys

Part III
Delays and Difficulties

Part IV
The Great Train Robbery

Part V
Arrest and Trial


I have read this book by sheer accident. I received it as a gift and, since I had seen and enjoyed the movie, I thought I might out of pure curiosity have a look at t
Great historical "info-tainment" that reads like the first OCEAN'S 11 movie, only grittier. Crichton really knows how to write a caper: he starts with a "mission impossible" scenario and then makes sure to pepper in as many unforeseen complications as possible. The story seems so tailor-made for the big screen that it's hard to believe the majority of it is supposedly based on fact. And a movie did eventually get made out of this, with Crichton himself directing. But what makes this book so supe ...more
I had no idea Crichton had ever published a piece of historical fiction, but he pulled this one off so well that I might have to check to see if he has any more. This book brilliantly presents all of the most fascinating aspects of Victorian England's culture while unfolding the brilliant but reckless scheme behind a remarkable train burglary. Crichton packaged history into a suspenseful storyline, judiciously choosing historical details that would be tantalizing both to a history major and some ...more
"True crime" account of the Great Train Robbery in England in 1855. I really liked the book, more so than the other books by Michael Crichton that I've read in the past.

The book is fairly short, and reads even shorter, as the book maintains a quick pace from start to finish. One aspect of the book that I found particularly enjoyable was the way Crichton wove bits and pieces of information about the subsequent trial of the perpetrators throughout the main plot line to illustrate many of the clev
Ed G
Jul 11, 2007 Ed G rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Crichton fans, adventure fans, mystery fans
All I'm going to say about Crichton is that he has a knack for what I call the "miracle ending". In one summer I read Congo, Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man, The Great Train Robbery and Sphere. I felt the same about each of them when I finished each.

He's a very good writer with captivating storylines, dead on science, compelling plot and in depth characters, but...I feel like he gets tired of writing the same story or can't properly tie things together at the end so he has som
A great book by all means. It is a different feeling when you read a true (crime) story. Way better than any fictional crime stories that I have read. Ingenious, one must admit. The thief would have won the 'oscar' for the greatest theft pulled off till date.

The first time I took the book from my college library, I did not feel like reading it and set it aside after reading just the first page. I thought it would be a dull book, because it depicts a true story. After a few months, I took this bo
Kirk Hanley
Wow, what a great book. The story of the planning and execution of an amazing crime: stealing gold bars intended to pay for the Crimean war from a moving train. The details about the criminal mastermind behind the robbery, life in the mid-19th century, the language of the criminal underclass, and the detailed scheme leading up to the robbery involving multiple crimes and cons is engrossing. But they are nothing compared to the description of the robbery itself. I won't share any spoilers here, b ...more
The beauty of this book is that you're never quite sure how much is historical fiction and how much is nonfiction history, but whatever it is, it's fantastic. The book is fast paced, engaging, stuffed with interesting period vernacular and insights into Victorian life. The writing is witty and engaging, and the characters all wonderfully, deftly developed. The elusive Mr. Pierce remains somewhat of a mystery, which only adds to his intrigue, and emulates his legacy of a mysterious figure in hist ...more
A thinking man's adventure-thriller -- even more so than any of his other works, this is easily Crichton's second-best novel over the course of his career. In almost every other effort he relentlessly covered contemporary or near-future territory and the theme of scary, or potentially dystopia-invoking technology. Here, 'Train Robbery' is where he really wrote something out of his usual comfort zone. Something really unique both for him and for the thriller genre.

It has quite a lot going for it.
The Great Train Robbery is set in Victorian London with the main characters Edward Pierce, a former ticket taker on the railway line, and Robert Agar, a screwsman who is skilled with copying keys and picking locks, the masterminds behind the robbery. It is actually the true story of a massive gold heist which took place on a train traveling through England in 1855. It is written more as a historical documention of the events rather than a traditional novel and is frequenly interrupted by lengthy ...more
Crichton's 1975 airport thriller ages surprisingly well (40 years old!), being still readable to the modern TV/video game addict choked up on Ritalin, caffeine, Citalis etc.

at times verging upon non-fiction in depth of detail and authoritarian voice, this novelization of the 1855 Great Gold Robbery from a moving train reminds the contemporary reader of the impact of this crime on Victorian culture/sensibilities, and evokes a bygone era with the speed and pacing of a Al Pacino movie.

apparently in
a solid 3.5 stars. this is our book club read. i was expecting a historical novel so the format took me a while to get into. but it isv really fascinating. a fun glimpse into the regular practices and times of the mid 1800s. the robbery feels so tv worthy it seems crazy that it actually happened. great research. not too long. excited to discuss and now want to see the movie
Avel Rudenko
I think this was one of Crichton's finest pieces of his life. Unfortunately, this might be due to the fact that the original story was not his creation. If you look up the train robbery, a few names are switched around, but obviously Crichton does so to avoid some confusion that could arise in the story had he kept the original names. He does put the piece together well, and the story keeps you turning page after page in awe. A lot of blurbs on Victorian history are thrown in between paragraphs ...more
This is my absolute favourite Crichton book, based as it is on an audacious true heist in Victorian England. The detailed research Crichton has carried out in order to write the book is fantastic in itselfrevealng the extra-ordinary lengths that The gang were prepared to go to. Perhaps In discovering the film version after reading the book with Sean Conney as the mastermind Edward Pierce and Donald Sutherland as his unfortunate compatriot in crime who is forced to lie heavily made up in a coffin ...more
I was longing to read this book for a long time...judging just by its cover. But this wasnt anything like what you would think the name suggests. Yes there is a robbery but the book was more a social commentry on the Victorian Society than a thriller. Remninded me of my History of england classes during undergraduation days
John Boettcher
Set back in Victorian London, not a place that Crichton fans are familiar with for sure, this book is anything but a dry piece of writing.

It is full of mystery, intrigue, and intelligence. It is very hard to write this review of the book without giving anything away. It is not his longest book by a long shot, and is surprisingly fun to read. You will come out of it a happy person when you are done. I can't believe I put off reading this one for so long simple because it was written so long ago
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Michael Crichton (1942–2008) was one of the most successful novelists of his generation, admired for his meticulous scientific research and fast-paced narrative. He graduated summa cum laude and earned his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1969. His first novel, Odds On (1966), was written under the pseudonym John Lange and was followed by seven more Lange novels. He also wrote as Michael Douglas ...more
More about Michael Crichton...
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“Having wallowed in a delightful orgy of anti-French sentiment, having deplored and applauded the villains themselves, having relished the foibles of bankers, railwaymen, diplomats, and police, the public was now ready to see its faith restored in the basic soundness of banks, railroads, government, and police.” 5 likes
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