Marston, Edward - 'The Stationmaster's Farwell'
It is November 1857 in Exeter, Devon. Every November the 5th, Guy Fawkes night, is celebrated with a huge bonfire but this year when the flames are finally extinguished, the charred remains of Joel Heygate, the station-masters body are found. Who would possibly want to murder a man so universally liked as the stationmaster of Exeter's St David's station? It's the question Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and Sergeant Victor Lemming ask when they arrive in Exeter, at the request of the South Devon Railway. Yet, as they investigate the stationmaster 's life, they realise he is not as popular as they first believed. With a scorned jilted lover, a resentful colleague and a violent elder brother among the many suspects, the detectives must use all their skill and wit to solve the case.
Murders are a rare occurrence in Exeter, Devon and for that reason Mr Gervase Quinnell of the South Devon Railway has requested the help of Scotland Yard as the local police are not thought to have enough experience to cope with the terrible crime. Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and Sergeant Victor Lemming start their investigation and immediately have problems with the Bishop of Exeter who complains to Scotland Yard, and subsequently their boss Superintendent Edward Tallis arrives. However, he has trouble with the bishop himself. The bishop believes a ruffian named Bagsy Browne is obviously the main suspect but the police have their doubts. On the station there is a cafe which is managed by a Mrs Rossiter who believes the dead stationmaster was almost engaged to her but no-one else believes her. Mrs Rossiter dresses in black and mourns his death and eventually seems to have a mental breakdown. Miss Dorcas Hope her young assistant was also fond of the stationmaster but he was closer to her in a fatherly sort of way. The deceased stationmaster had an assistant, an officious individual named Lawrence Woodford, who seems to upset the other staff with his poor management skills, and the railway detectives are increasingly inclined to add his name to the people they consider possible suspects of the stationmaster's murder. Heygate had an older brother, who with his wife, had a very poor relationship with the deceased and frequently argued, but now that the brother has died they hope to inherit his property.
Sergeant Victor Lemming hates to be away from London on such cases as he misses his wife and family and Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck is expecting to be married to his beloved Madeleine very shortly and does not want to miss his wedding. Madeleine is worried about her widowed father who has developed an attraction for a new lady friend. These side stories add to the suspense.
The very well plotted and charmingly characterised story is very fast paced entertainment and I found I was very anxious to discover who the murderer was. What a surprise it was when the denouement was reached! I absolutely loved this splendid historical mystery which has been researched so thoroughly by the author who has many other similar books to his name. Well recommended.
Terry Halligan, England