The first book in the Inspector Vignoles series

Violet McIntyre has a decision to make. Her mother and younger sister depend on Violet making this the correct choice, but she could never have forseen just how bad it would prove to be. Soon Violet"s life is curiously linked to an investigation that Detective Inspector Charles Vignoles of the L.N.E.R Detective Department is pursuing. Vignoles thinks he"s making good progress, but when two young railway cleaners at Woodford Halse locomotive depot make a startling discovery, everything spirals out of control, becoming ever deadlier by the hour. D.I. Vignoles struggles to understand the worsening situation, and like the smoke from the grimy locomotives that gets in his eyes, his judgment becomes clouded. But he cannot afford to make a mistake - a woman"s life depends upon it.

Set in 1946 during the austere gloom of post-war Britain, this is a gripping and atmospheric murder mystery, laced throughout by the atmosphere of the old Great Central Railway and the swing beat of the music of the time.


"An intriguing mystery, warm-hearted and evocative of the time in which it is set - just after the last war. All of the characters and settings ring true - you really feel that you are transported back in time, on the footplate of a war-weary steam locomotive. If you are interested in the history of the railways, you"ll love the detail - if, like me, you"re not too much of a trainspotter, you"ll love the way the human drama unfolds.

Behind the main story strands, state nationalisation and emerging equal rights issues colour the palette - but the author gives this a gentle sepia wash rather than the usual full-on treatment. And his messages are, in many ways, all the more powerful for it.

The author paints a picture of how this could have been a time for revolution, with shortages of everything, except for potential victims of loan sharks, counterfeiters and small-time criminals. How the "good guys" deal with the threats posed a sinister, burgeoning underworld, growing in the heart of their community and infecting the creaking instruments of the state is the real point of interest in this novel. And the ways in which the various issues raised by the author are resolved are ultimately very satisfying.

All in all, just like the railway system described in "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", you get the sense that, in post-war rural England, "whistle while you work" and "make do and mend" attitudes were formidable weapons in the war against, on the one hand, societal change and, on the other, gangsters, spivs and kidnappers."

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by Stephen Done

Inspector Vignoles is a railway detective on the Great Central Railway line in the 1940s and 1950s, in the days of the London & North Eastern Railway ownership. Lots of steam locomotives, human interest and action!

1. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

2. The Murder of Crows

3. The Torn Curtain

4. The Marylebone Murders

5. Last Train to Brackley Central

6. New Brighton Rock

7. Blood and Custard

8. The Mountsorrel Mystery

‘The best of the railway detective novels on the market!’ Steam Railway Magazine

"I love it! A real page-turner." Daily Mirror

"Move over Aidensfield, the new Heartbeat could be here!" Daventry Post

‘Thoroughly recommended for providing an exciting and captivating read. Each move is meticulously told and there is a pace to the story that keeps one wanting to turn the pages.’ Mainline Magazine

‘A captivating group of characters who seem to encapsulate a more innocent age.’ Tony Johnson

"Not just splendidly paced crime thrillers, not just delicious treats for all steam train enthusiasts but really vibrant social portraits of the life and mores of the immediate post war, Austerity Britain. I intend putting them in my "Best Read of the Year" slot in the run-up to Christmas." Ewan Wilson, Crime Fiction Buyer, Waterstone"s

"An atmospheric and gripping story in which the characters are painted very vividly." Sian Harrington

"An absolutely riveting story that has all the elements of a cracking yarn." British Railway Modelling

"Skillfully constructed and features a host of well-observed characters. Bags of wonderful nostalgia and a gripping denoument." Tony Boullemier

"Stephen has originated the new literary genre of Post-war Austerity Gothic." Liverpool Daily Post