x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The Baghdad Railway Club: First World War mystery

The eighth installment in the Jim Skinner series finds the railway detective heads to Iraq to gather evidence against a suspected traitor in the British army.

The Baghdad Railway Club
Andrew Martin
Faber and Faber
Dh85
The Baghdad Railway Club Andrew Martin Faber and Faber Dh85

Picking up from where The Somme Stations left off, the eighth instalment in Andrew Martin's Jim Stringer railway detective series finds the captain transported to Baghdad (or "Mespot" as the British forces universally dub the place) in the sweltering summer months of 1917.

Newcomers will fall quickly for the writer's charms as a purveyor of historical fiction, and for the plodding and thoughtful reluctance of Stringer, who is required to gather evidence against Lt Col Shepherd, and either "bring [him] to book" for colluding with the enemy, or clear his name.

Martin is an astute and accurate novelist who easily summons evocative, dramatic landscapes and Baghdad's claustrophobic alleyways. He's also clever to point his narrative to the region's future: "Mespot" in the later months of the Great War may be a sideshow to the bleak killing fields of France and Belgium, but the prize it may yield (described as a "veritable lake of petroleum") appears like an oasis on the post-war horizon.