Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Lost Luggage Porter by Andrew Martin

I'm currently reading The Lost Luggage Porter by Andrew Martin. It's a detective story, set in York in 1906. The narrator is one Jim Springer, who has just taken up a position as a detective with the North Eastern Railway Company. It's told in first person, with no frame (eg. he's not obviously writing his memoires) which is great. I don't see why 1st person narratives need frames. The Ripley book below had almost believable frames - in that one was writing a history (and ... no, I shouldn't give it away) and the other was being interviewed by someone who was really wanting to know about Agricola, and turned out to be Tacitus (Agricola's son-in-law). But mostly, the 'I am writing this in my dotage' is used too often to be entertaining. Why not just jump right (write?) in and tell the story? Jim Stringer does just this.

Somehow, Andrew Martin's got a very authentic voice. For example, he only ever refers to his wife as The Wife. I only got to know her name (Lydia) because his Dad called her by her name. The author knows about trains, and his settings feel right. As a York resident, I haven't come across any quibbles as yet. I'm certainly very familiar with some of the buildings and roads mentioned :-)

Jim lives in Thorpe-on-Ouse. Not being a local, I'm not sure, if this is a resident's name for Bishopthorpe (I have a friend who lives there, I shall ask her tomorrow), but it certainly is that part of York. It's interesting to note that there is a stern disclaimer about there being no intent to refer to anyone who either worked on the railways, lived in York or Paris at the time. I guess that is the hazard of writing a story set in relatively recent times. I remember an author talking about a book she had written about the Sunken Island in Holderness. Though it was set in the 19th century, she was very careful to ensure that she didn't use any current family names in the area, just in case.

I've not finished The Lost Luggage Porter yet, but it's compelling stuff. It's actually the third in the Jim Stringer series, and I certainly wouldn't sniff at reading the other two. He has a light touch, using historical detail deftly. I remember the first one, The Necropolis Railway getting very good reviews, and now I have a hint as to why.

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