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The Necropolis Railway (Jim Stringer #1)

3.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  530 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
Andrew Martin has written an historical thriller set around the true story of the Brookwood Necropolis Railway, which carried the dead from Waterloo Station. Previous novels by the author include 'Bilton' and 'The Bobby Dazzlers'.
Paperback, 231 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Faber and Faber (first published 2002)
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Oct 01, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review from Badelynge
The Necropolis Railway introduces the character of Jim Stringer onto the Edwardian mystery stage. Stringer starts out as a fairly wet behind the ears young bloke fresh out of Baytown (that's Robin Hood's Bay to us tourists). He's dead set on making a life and a career for himself on his beloved railways. His head is full of the romance of the railways, the rose coloured ideal straight out of the Boy's Own Paper or his revered Railway Magazine. His first job as a porter at th
Dec 04, 2013 F.R. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a smart and inventive Edwardian thriller, set on a railway line whose sole purpose is a perfect fit for a thriller - the trains transported the dead and the grieving to a large cemetery outside of London. (This was apparently a real line, the cemetery was Brockwood and the trains departed from Waterloo). There is murder, skulduggery, a gang of sinister characters and a young apprentice whose eyes are opened to the world.

Unfortunately, unless you happen to have an incredibly deep interest
Michelle Dockrey
This book was okay, and had a lot of what appeals to me in period mysteries; the feel of being taken to another world. The blurbs on the back include "loaded with railway lore" and "crackles with the idiom and slang of the period." And that was the problem-- it crackled so much I couldn't actually tell what the hell was going on, sometimes. When terms aren't defined, you can normally gather them by context, but when the context of the word in question is loaded with still *more* undefined terms, ...more
Feb 15, 2014 Abailart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I almost always have a little light reading on the go, invariably detective stuff. This, my introduction to Martin, is fine, the writing wuality high. Faber think so too which is why the publish him.
I note a lot of negative reviews. I sympathise. The books are slow and thickly textured, and very thin on plot or narrative suspense. The quality lies in the beautiful depiction of Edwardian atmospheres, all held together by the railways themselves, the power and smoke. Very amusing too.
Sep 02, 2012 Colleen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: whodunnit
Well I gave this book a try, but I found it deadly dull. Maybe it's because I don't care much about trains and this book did not instill in me a thirst to learn more. I found the narrator a pompous little hypocrite and I hated the narration. Found it difficult to follow, disjointed, and unclear. The "mystery" was hard to get into, and someone who personally loves more characters!, I had the hardest time keeping everyone straight. And by the end I figured it out it wasn't even worth keeping them ...more
Jun 24, 2012 Steven rated it really liked it
I suspect that one of the things tat will influence the rating for this series of novels is how much of a railway wonk the reader is -- and being a bit of a railway wonk myself, I found myself enjoying this novel a great deal, what with its various railway minutiae from the start of the Edwardian era, and its detailing of the long defunct Necropolis Railway. Jim Stringer's a lively protagonist pulled into an unlikely trade for a butcher's son, in that his ambition to move up through the ranks in ...more
The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin is first book in a series starring railway man Jim Stringer. It is billed on its cover as "an ingenious and atmospheric thriller" (Daily Express, London) and "a masterful novel about a mad, clanking fog-bound world (Simon Winchester, author of The Professor & the Madman), but quite honestly ingenious, thriller and masterful aren't the words that come to mind. I will admit that it's got plenty of that. There are bits where the atmosphe ...more
Feb 08, 2015 Melanie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't really say much about this book as I only managed to get to page 135, it was dire, no it didn't make my flesh creep or my skin crawl as stated on the front cover. there doesn't seem to be much going on other than some not very nice men possibly killing a couple of others, I found the whole thing quite badly written and rather boring.
Not going to finish this - a shame, because trains! Meticulously detailed trains and train labour in the late Victorian period, which is delightful. Unfortunately, that's it. It's just totally incoherent otherwise. I haven't the foggiest clue what is going on, how our totally boring hero suddenly decided he needs to find a killer, who's been killed, what the factions are, who he's working for, etc, etc. I mean, seriously, I just don't know what is happening, even as I am reading it, and not in a ...more
Ade Couper
Mar 10, 2012 Ade Couper rated it it was ok
This is the 1st in a very popular series of books , which a few folk have recommended to me - & I'm not sure why.....

I found this difficult to get into for 2 main reasons : (1) , the main character (Jim Stringer , "Railway Detective") is frankly not at all interesting , & (2) frankly the mystery doesn't engage .

On the plus side it's competently written , with some quite good descriptions of the Waterloo engine-sheds which occasionally tend to the atmospheric , but if I read any more in
I didn't really expect to ever want to read a book that included copious amounts of information about trains and their history. It was my Faber and Faber obsession that tempted me. Now I am completely hooked. Jim Stringer is an unlikely hero/ detective whose keen eye for anomalies and of course encyclopaedic railway knowledge saves the day. Based on the real extra-ordinary history of the necropolis railway in London the story races along. Jim meets the "missus" whose sensible outlook on life hel ...more
Tim Pendry
A well crafted crime novel that was to be the origin of the Jim Stringer series about a railway detective although here he is a lowly engine cleaner at Waterloo Station in 1903.

He lost a point for one of the faults of a certain type of writer - a refusal to explain technical terms. Arrogance disappears in the second novel of the series but I think he should be punished for the first.

The crime itself is all set for a formula (the writing improves enormously in the second in the series making this
Jun 09, 2012 Gary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Now this is weird. I read the second in the series first and quite enjoyed it but coming to the first book I found it irritating, slow and frankly dull. Too much railway jargon/references and not enough action to make me want to read on. I know it's set in 1903 but the prose style is pedestrian and I found it a real effort to continue. Can't recommend it and probably I'd give it a 1.5 rating if that were possible.
Feb 24, 2014 Lizixer rated it liked it
This is the first Jim Stringer and less assured than later books but Martin has a lot to do in order to establish his character, his period and shoehorn a lot of railway history in to boot. So the solving of the mystery does suddenly happen very fast and the denouement is a little surprising (and disappointing perhaps) compared to the long build up and the careful recreation of the Lower Marsh/Waterloo of Edwardian times and the tribute to the famous and short lived Necropolis railway.

I've comp
Dirck de Lint
Oct 14, 2014 Dirck de Lint rated it really liked it
There's several things to recommend this book, although some of them may be considered warnings by some. Large in either heading is an excellent maintenance of a first-person voice, in which that person is occasionally given to early 20th century railway slang-- for someone whose child is a huge fan of Rev. Awdry's stories, this isn't an impediment, but a less indoctrinated person could have some trouble with it. There is also the interesting novelty of a mystery story without a detective, amate ...more
Dec 16, 2014 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting start to an interesting topic. For those who like railroads, especially steam engines, Andrew Martin knows how to write for fans. This novel is filled with trivia information about everything you want to know about railways. Termed a mystery, I find that the plot is to filled with the railway and not enough about the mystery. I do enjoy Jim Stringer and how he is so absorbed by the railway that others loose interest, especially his land lady who feels he is too interested. Mar ...more
Peter Anderson
Jan 31, 2015 Peter Anderson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Necropolis Railway A Novel of Murder, Mystery and Steam

This was a nice easy read. We are introduced to young Jim Stringer at the beginning of this book. By a bit of good fortune he meets an influential stranger (the dapper Mr Rowland-Smith) who is able to offer Jim an opportunity to fulfil his dream of becoming a steam engine driver. With Smith's offer, Jim is able to leave Yorkshire and move to London to take up a position as a steam engine cleaner with the London and South Western Railway
Peter Auber
Dec 10, 2015 Peter Auber rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ctc-readings
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Musselman
"Beyond the gardens were some tennis players . . . Not at all good at the game, but they were trying their best and my heart was filled with good wishes for them. . . ."

As I neared the end of this book, I struggled with how I would describe it to others, and then the author himself dropped this line into my head, which summed up a lot of my feelings quite well.

Necropolis Railway is sincere, honest, well-researched, and very obviously a labour of love. The protagonist is likeable, the Edwardian s
Nov 12, 2011 Luke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first novel in the still-ongoing Jim Stringer series. It is also an unapologetic love-letter to life at the footplate. If you don't like trains, you probably should give this a miss. It's similar to the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey-Maturin series in terms of detail and research. I didn't find this off-putting, though others may. It's very much a Boys' Own style of writing - though given that this pretty accurately describes the narrator's maturity level, it's fine.

Other than the detailed
A young man from a small town, working as a porter at the local rail station, is offered a job in London working on the engines. He will start as a cleaner but should be able to work his way up quickly according to his sponsor. The whole set up is a bit suspicious however and none of young Jim's fellow rail men will offer him any friendship. Jim is bewildered but does his best. He also is intrigued with several recent deaths of people working for the railroad, including his predecessor. He start ...more
Aug 02, 2011 DC rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
I didn't expect much of this book when I came to it. I had heard the author talking about railways and I knew a little about the Necropolis Railway, so I thought it would be a mildly interesting diversion. I greatly underestimated it...

The basic story is that in 1903 a young Yorkshire lad goes to London to take up a job with a railway company, a job he hopes shall one day lead him to driving the trains. He is a complete railway enthusiast, and views trains and all their accoutrements through dis
Sep 08, 2013 Peter rated it liked it
Firstly I feel that it is only fair that I admit to working on the railway and that was the main reason why I picked the book up in the first place. That said I'm not a train enthusiast as such and am more interested in the social history of that rather than the actual engines etc themselves.

I feel in something of a quandary as just how I feel about the book. I really enjoyed the historical part of the book, it is obvious that the author has done his research into London and in particular the ar
May 27, 2013 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I approached this book with a totally open mind and my only expectations, were a hope that the Author would at the very least create a rich "Conan Doyle'esqe" vision of turn of the twentieth century London. After finishing the book, I can honestly say that for the first time in as long as I can remember that I have thoroughly enjoyed an historical novel that actually sacrifices plot for beautiful period enviromental, social and most obviously technical detail. The industrialised London that the ...more
Apr 29, 2008 Leigh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historica fiction lovers, Anglophiles
Shelves: read-mysteries
I picked up a copy of The Necropolis Railway while in London, hoping to find a great mystery set in London itself. It is a wonderfully atomospheric tale, and it is rich in historical detail of the turn of the century rail system in London.

Jim Stringer is a naive young man determined to make a living as a 1903 railway man. Through chance, he finds a job with the South East Railway's graveyard line which transports bodies to the outskirts of London for burial (due to overcrowded cemeteries). The m
May 30, 2009 Codex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history, mystery, 2009
An ominous tale set in London during the early 1900s with a persistently foreboding atmosphere. It describes the events that unfold over the course of a few weeks when a young man starts his career in the railways as an engine cleaner, with eyes set firmly on becoming a driver on the “footplate.” Things don’t go quite the way he envisaged, and he finds himself at the centre of intrigue and misplaced animosity.

The author captures the mood of the period well and manages to immerse the reader in th
Nov 16, 2009 Bibliophile rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I must confess that I purchased The Necropolis Railway almost solely for its title (which is brilliant and probably the best thing about the novel.) A young Yorkshireman named Jim Stringer, who is obsessed with steam engines and railways (a bit like my toddler, actually!) is fortuitously given a job with the Great Western Railway in London. But when he actually arrives at his workplace, he finds a setting rife with mystery, murder and mayhem. For my tastes, Andrew Martin provided a bit too much ...more
Matt Aldridge
Oct 01, 2015 Matt Aldridge rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm proud of many things in life, kids, career, mindful lover etc etc but finishing this book is very high up the list. Dull, dull, dull. Didn't care about anyone, didn't enjoy the "thriller" aspect and could see the plot twist off a mile. Some people like it a lot and so it serves the purpose of reminding me that its a big wide world and we all like different things. Just not sure I want to meet those people at the next party I attend :-)
Aug 30, 2014 Andrée rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This takes sub-genres to a new level of anorak-ism. (Although I'm a sucker for the 'body farm' genre where nerds rule - the life cycle of the [insert latin name of geographically peculiar insect] tells me that the murder took place last Thursday before dusk on the north side of the mountain - fab)

It's the first time where I've read an author telling the main character that he's boring...which rather sums it up, sadly.
Jul 30, 2011 Josephine rated it liked it
6th June 2011

A reasonably good detective story but in my opinion certainly not "guaranteed to make your flesh creep and the skin crawl" as quoted on the back of the book. This would be a good read for someone interested in railways in the 1900's but I found it a bit too slow and not particularly gripping or exciting. Some of the historical facts were indeed interesting and the fact that the Necropolis railway did actually exist right up until 1941 was fascinating. The only creepy thing in the bo
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Andrew Martin (born 6 July 1962) is an English novelist and journalist.

Martin was brought up in Yorkshire, studied at the University of Oxford and qualified as a barrister. He has since worked as a freelance journalist for a number of publications while writing novels, sta
More about Andrew Martin...

Other Books in the Series

Jim Stringer (8 books)
  • The Blackpool Highflyer (Jim Stringer, #2)
  • The Lost Luggage Porter
  • Murder at Deviation Junction (Jim Stringer, #4)
  • Death on a Branch Line (Jim Stringer, #5)
  • The Last Train to Scarborough (Jim Stringer, Railway Detective, #6)
  • The Somme Stations
  • The Baghdad Railway Club

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