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The Great Train Robbery

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  18,489 Ratings  ·  818 Reviews
"A nineteenth-century version of THE STING...Crichton fascinates us."
In teeming Victorian London, where lavish wealth and appalling poverty live side by side, Edward Pierce charms the most prominent of the well-to-do as he cunningly orchestrates the crime of the century. Who would suspect that a gentleman of breeding could mastermind the darin
Paperback, 266 pages
Published July 1987 by Dell (first published 1975)
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M The boy's name was Spring Heel Jack. On page 8 of my copy Agar says to Pierce, "I heard...that on this train he was doing some some crow's peeping for…moreThe boy's name was Spring Heel Jack. On page 8 of my copy Agar says to Pierce, "I heard...that on this train he was doing some some crow's peeping for a particular gent that it putting up....I also heard that you are putting up." Being an American, I only speak the president's English, so I found the slang a little difficult, but I think it means that Pierce hired him to case the joint. The literary purpose of it was to show that Pierce is ruthless and didn't even care that he had gotten the boy killed for no reason. (less)
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Dan Schwent
Dec 29, 2014 Dan Schwent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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
Jan 31, 2015 Henry Avila rated it really liked it
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
Supratim Bose
This one was a a really great and exciting read. I had picked it out from my library without knowing how good it really is. Initially I even thought if the book is fiction or true crime.

Reviewing this book is a bit of a challenge as I don't want to include any spoilers and mar the joy of reading this novel.

As the name suggests, the novel is about a daring train robbery and it was carried out during the Victorian era in London. At that time, the railways were seen as the symbol of progress and te
Jun 10, 2012 Dyuti rated it it was amazing  ·  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 it was amazing  ·  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
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.
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
Book Concierge
In 1855 a gang of thieves carried out an elaborate scheme to rob a train of the gold bullion scheduled to serve as payroll for the soldiers fighting in the Crimean War. “The Victorians always referred to this crime in capital letters, as The Great Train Robbery.” This is Crichton’s fictionalized novel based on what is known of the truth, with a good deal of conjecture and embellishment.

What a rollicking good story! I was entertained from beginning to end. Crichton starts out with a recitation of
Dec 19, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2013 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  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
Apr 24, 2007 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Mar 29, 2010 Agatha Diaz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 2015 Dergrossest rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 24, 2011 Elisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Vijayanarayanan Suresh Kumar
One of the best ever! May be the best so far! Edward Pierce is one hardass
Ed G
Jul 11, 2007 Ed G rated it really liked it  ·  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
Serena.. Sery-ously?
Ocean's eleven versione 0.5!

Allora, innanzi tutto Edward Pierce è un personaggio fighissimo: intelligente, scaltro e soprattutto un passo avanti a tutti!! :D
La narrazione di Crichton poi.. Sublime! La storia si compone pian piano su diversi piani temporali: il 'dopo', il processo, il 'prima', un interessantissimo excursus sugli usi e costumi del tempo (il funzionamento della ferrovia, i mestieri diffusi, la prigione.. TANTA ROBA!!) che si mescola perfettamente al 'durante', la grande rapina al t
Sep 22, 2014 Sibin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 22, 2014 Jean marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing and dull. Michael Crichton usually writes real page-turners; this is not one of them. There is an introduction which sets the scene, presumably so that we can understand how shocking a train robbery would have seemed to the Victorians, since rail travel was new, a positive and impressive development. The introduction is written in textbook fashion, and the novel itself continues in the same boring vein.
Sep 04, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite passage from this book which is a pretty neat historical view of Victorian English society :

"And when the South Eastern Railway's hired detectives came forth with evidence that the robbery had been carried out by French villains--- an allegation quickly shown to be groundless--- the public suspicion hardened into certainty, and the press began to refer to The Great Train Robbery.

All during July and August, 1855, The Great Train Robbery remained a sensational topic in print an
Kirk Hanley
Jan 20, 2015 Kirk Hanley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 27, 2014 Elise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 30, 2015 Tushar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine George Clooney of Ocean's Eleven planning a masterful heist in the Victorian backdrop of 1850s; that's how I would like to think of the protagonist, Edward Pierce. He is suave, brilliant, witty and devises an intricate but meticulous plot to pull off one of the most famous robberies (and not the greatest because the sum was not huge even by the author's count) of the period. He is aided in the ambitious plot by a 'screwsman', a 'snakeman', a loyal cabby and his own mistress. The novel be ...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
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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 Dougla ...more
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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.” 6 likes
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