The Great Train Robbery entertains and informs

Man in top hat watches a steam-drawntrain
The dust jacket of The Great Train Robbery tells part of the novel’s story.

In The Great Train Robbery, Michael Crichton’s masterfully blurs fact and fiction as he did in The Andromeda Strain.

This time Crichton takes readers to 1855 London, a teeming urban center where the immensely rich often live just across the street from the pathetically poor.

Edward Pierce, a man of unknown antecedents and unsurpassed effrontery, plans to steal the gold bullion being shipped from London to the continent to pay the British Army fighting in Crimea.

Pierce is a meticulous researcher, though his methodologies would not have been well regarded at Oxford or Cambridge.

To secure the four keys needed to open the two safes in which the bullion is transported, Pierce not only spends hour observing and timing the activities of railway employees, but also courts the daughter of one of the key holders and springs a noted cat-burglar from Newgate Prison.

Crichton laces the dialogue with the argot of London’s criminal class, declining to translate much of it, thereby intensifying the impression that he’s recording exactly what the thieves said.

Crichton surrounds the plot with vital trivia about Victorian England’s socioeconomic conditions, architecture, and burial practices.

Readers will close the novel better informed about nineteenth century history and very well entertained.

The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton
Alfred A. Knopf, 1975. 266 p.
1975 bestseller #8. My grade: A-

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. My program for turning teens and adults into competent writers is just eight sentences, 34 words.

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