BOOK REVIEW: THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY
Putting together a story about the real Great Train Robbery was a task that Michael Crichton really handled well. Crichton researched the court documents, newspaper accounts, and talked with as many knowledgeable persons as possible to make this an interesting novel based on real events.
Edward Pierce was the mastermind of this remarkable criminal activity that occurred in 1855. And though the actual robbery took place in 1855 the events leading up to it were very well developed by Crichton. How Pierce plotted the entire operation from hand picking individuals for their own particular calling that met his needs to making sure that the timing was at the precise moment is actually the work of a master criminal with a brilliant mind.
His station in life at that time in London helped him to walk both sides of the street as he was able to “hob-nob” with the bankers, etc. while he also mingled with the clandestine characters who made up the petty criminal element of the time.
After skillfully learning where the location of four necessary keys were, he than managed to get one of his helpers, who was adept at copying keys, to the site of each key for a long enough period to perform his skill. Once the keys were in Pierce’s possession he then began setting up the perfect time to get aboard the well-protected train for the heist.
Not only was he able to determine when that perfect time would be but he was also able through more of his ties to get rumors passed up to the police that indeed a robbery was to take place. However he made sure that the ‘noses’ (as the stoolies of the day were called) were giving out wrong information not only about when but also where.
Crichton very well relates the details of the robbery when it was underway and the getaway that was planned and executed. It is all fascinating and keeps your interest throughout the endeavor.
The only problem to be noted is that much of the story is told in Old English and is not always readily translated to American English of today. In many places, however, Crichton does translate especially when the speaker is of Irish descent and even the English of that day have a hard time understanding his meaning.
Overall the book is a great account of a monumental time in history and very well written by the gentleman who also wrote Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain.
REVIEWED BY ALLEN HOTT
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