The Highland Falcon Thief by M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman
|The Highland Falcon Thief by M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Alex Mitchell|
|Summary: Combining a thrilling, almost Agatha Christie-like, mystery adventure with a meticulously researched setting, this book is perfect for both train lovers and mystery fans.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 256||Date: January 2020|
|External links: Author's website|
Harrison Beck, or Hal as he prefers to be called, isn't exactly pleased when his parents send him off with his uncle Nat, a travel writer, on a long train journey. Although, this isn't any old train; this is the Highland Falcon, the royal train, and this is its last ever journey before it gets sent to a museum. A number of high-society figures, including film stars, millionaires and aristocrats, will be on this train, so it is quite the event on the social calendar. However, when an expensive brooch is stolen, Hal realises that maybe this trip won't be as boring as he previously thought. As the passengers begin to turn on each other, Hal vows to get to the bottom of the mystery…before the train gets to the end of the line.
I loved steam trains when I was younger. I often dreamed about becoming the driver of a steam locomotive…until I realised that steam locomotives aren't widely used any more and I couldn't really make a living driving them. However, picking up this book brought all these memories back. This is combined with a very interesting, well-paced story so that, even if you aren't a massive train nerd, I guarantee that you'll still enjoy the book. It is also meant to be the first book in a series, and I look forward to seeing where else Hal and Uncle Nat go.
The protagonist of the book is Harrison (or 'Hal') Beck, an 11-year old boy with a great talent for drawing. He's currently travelling on the Highland Falcon with his uncle Nat, a travel writer that the Prince's father is particularly fond of. He's also aided by Lennie (short for Marlene) Singh, the daughter of the Highland Falcon's driver who stowed away on the train. There is Sierra Knight, a rather snobby film star travelling with her rather beleaguered personal assistant Lucy. There is Lady Lansbury, a recently widowed aristocrat who bought a large number of dogs to keep herself company. There's Steven Pickles, a multi-millionaire railway owner with no concept of 'politeness' or 'an indoor voice'. There's also his trophy wife Lydia, who is also the first victim of the thief, a rather spacey woman but ultimately a lot more decent than her husband. There is also Baron Essenbach, a German aristocrat and railway enthusiast and his rather thuggish-looking son Milo, who seems to have been dragged here against his will. Finally, we have Ernest White, a former steward on the royal train, joining her for her final ride. Each of these characters (with the possible exception of uncle Nat and Ernest White), has something to hide, which really adds to the almost Agatha Christie-like feel of the book. The recently married Prince and Princess (heavily implied to be Harry Windsor and Meghan Markle, particularly ironic given recent events) also join the train about halfway through the book.
While there are some creative liberties taken (there are a couple of times in the book where the train stops to refill its coal and water tanks, even though there are no coal or water tanks operational along the East Coast main line any more), the authors have clearly tried to be as accurate as possible when depicting the workings of steam locomotives. Also, the railways plotted out by the authors is quite accurate, even if the part of the line that goes all the way up to Balmoral has been closed for quite a while. The journey the train takes is partially inspired by an actual train journey from 1961, when a locomotive of the same type as the Highland Falcon pulled the Royal coaches during the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Kent.
Overall, this is an excellent start to a series, and a must-read for train enthusiasts and mystery lovers.
You could get a free audio download of The Highland Falcon Thief by M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Highland Falcon Thief by M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Highland Falcon Thief by M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman at Amazon.com.
Check prices, read reviews or buy from Waterstones
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.