On the first day of the Somme enlisted railwayman Jim Stringer lies trapped in a shell hole, smoking cigarette after cigarette under the bullets and the blazing sun.
He calculates his chances of survival - even before they departed for France, a member of Jim's unit had been found dead.
During the stand-off that follows, Jim and his comrades must operate by night the vitally important trains carrying munitions to the Front, through a ghostly landscape of shattered trees where high explosive and shrapnel shells rain down.
Close co-operation and trust are vital. Yet proof piles up of an enemy within, and as a ferocious military policeman pursues his investigation into the original killing, the finger of accusation begins to point towards Jim himself...
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 304 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber
- Publication Date: 01/03/2011
- Category: Historical fiction
- ISBN: 9780571249602
Showing 1 - 5 of 7 reviews.
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Review by unittj
I approached this book with anticipation, loving both detective stories and history, and was thrilled to see it opened in Ilkley, a place where I used to live, and know well. I was extremely disconcerted to see that Ilkley had been moved from Wharfedale to Swaledale! However, after that faux pas it improved enormously. It is the story of a close knit, and very diverse, group of men thrown together in trying circumstances, joining up together to 'do their bit' for the war effort. The characters are well drawn, and consistent. The story of the original murder is overshadowed by the work being done by the men in wartime France, to it's advantage. When the denouement does finally come it is a complete surprise, and, if I am being honest, a little contrived. I am not really in a position to comment on how accurate the research was, not having heard of the railways set up to transport ammunition to the front, but it felt right. The way death became almost unimportant, and the way 'news' of the fighting was filtered for those at home seemed genuine. The first person narrative made it personal, and I enjoyed the way Jim's wife was so keen for him to be commissioned! Whether he was or not - read the book and find out!
Review by arkgirl1
I wondered whether reading the 7th book in a series might be difficult but I didn't find it a problem and found it an easy read ... though not as easy subject matter! We start with letters from Jim Stringer's wife to a friend written after he has been injured in WW1, - the letters share about his physical progress and then we have the Military Police arriving to arrest him for murder. After this initial setting up we move back in time to Jim joining up with many other railway folk for a 'pals' regiment. The story takes us out to training on Spurn Point where an accident or murder occurs then off to the Somme - the mystery element has twists and red herrings but it is actually the story of the group serving in France that engaged me the most. It is sparsely written but well plotted and I will try some of the UK based stories.
Review by wigsonthegreen
This book was a disappointing read. The plot was rather thin, the text often plodding and the characters one-dimensional. The use of the first person narrative should have resulted in a more intimate tale but sadly the character lacked substance and I remained indifferent to him throughout. On the plus side, the author had clearly researched the role of the railway and railway workers in the Great War but it just did not make a particularly engaging story.
Review by robertgriffen
Having read widely on the First World War and had the advantage of some limited discussions with my Father who was with the King's Regiment in France from 1915 until early 1919, I approached this book with eager anticipation.Initially I found the style of writing rather confusing, but as I got into the story, I found the language, pace and story telling kept my interest. Clearly the research has been very thorough and detailed. Although this is a fictional tale, it has all the impact of a biographical work. The story of trains that ran right up to the front lines is an interesting addition to the various details of the conflict.To say that I enjoyed the book is not quite right. Stories about this war can never be enjoyable because the events were so terrible, but I found it an interesting story which left little to the imagination, although I doubt whether I am able to imagine the absolute horror of the life that the soldiers had to endure.For anyone interested in the history of that time, this is worth reading.
Review by devenish
'The Somme Stations' is the seventh,and to my mind,the best of the Jim Stringer series of books. Stringer is a detective working in the railway police office in York.At the beginning of this book World War 1 is in progress and he joins the army with the North Eastern Battalion together with many of his fellow railway work-mates.In their first billeting camp at a place called Spurn Head,a young man who is a member of the Company is found dead. Murder or Suicide ? Before an investigation of any depth can be instigated,the whole company is sent to France and shortly afterwards to the front. The terrible conditions there are wonderfully described by the author. It is that part of the book rather than the crime,or should I say crimes,that made the most impact on me. As in all of the previous Stringer books,I think the character of his wife is really outstanding. She is a feisty woman who keeps Jim fully motivated and takes no prisoners.Several critics have said,perhaps with some justification,that the book was difficult to get into,as they had not read any others of the series. however,surely that is the fault of the reader and not of the author himself. One should always read in order if at all possible,and the Jim Stringer series is no exception.
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