The Somme Stations plunges into the horrors of World War One trench combat. Stringer and his unit must undertake dangerous nocturnal assignments: driving the trains taking munitions to the front. Death is everywhere, as the trains travel through blasted surrealistic landscapes, and a single-minded military policeman continues to investigate a killing that occurred before the departure for France.
This was a recent read for my local Library Reading Group and was met with not much enthusiasm from the members at all. Most found it boring with all the train information that it contained and some even gave up on it.
I gave this a 5/10. It wasn't a book that I would have readily picked up off the shelf myself. I like a good crime story and I don't mind the odd war themed book, but the railway side of this one didn't really do it for me at all.
This is the seventh book in a series that feature Jim Stringer a railway detective. It can be read as a standalone story though. I found the characters were well developed and felt that Andrew Martin must have quite a vast knowledge about railways, as the detail at times was very in depth. I did learn from this story the role that trains played in the First World War of which I knew very little. I also at one point thought that the word materiel had been spelt wrongly and that it should have been material instead. I was going to Google it when I got the chance but one of my fellow reading group members explained that it wasn't and what it actually referred to ~ The word materiel means the equipment and supplies in military or commercial supply-chain management. So, a forklift truck (which is equipment used in the supply chain) and a can of petrol (which is one of the supplies) would both be classified as materiel. In other words, materiel is the things a military force or a business needs to do its job (defnition taken from http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/material_materiel.htm).
The other thing that actually struck me, was the graphic description following a wartime incident where one of the characters had been hit and ended up being killed and dismembered. The following thought popped into Jim Stringer's head 'The leg was much lighter than I would have thought.' It really brought it home to me the horrors that the men fighting must have had to go through.
With regards to the crime that is committed and the fact that Jim Stringer has a hand in investigating, this seemed to be a supplementary story and not the main theme of the book to me. It was as if it was tagged on, with the book being in the Jim Stringer series. As I felt more emphasis was given to the railway and war than the actual crime.
If you're into First World War stories mashed with a lot of railway influences with a crime thrown in then this is the book for you.