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A book review by Steven Wu
February 04, 2003
|Rating: 8 (of 10)|
I am not actually sure whether Crichton is writing about a real historical event. That being said, Crichton achieves an impressive degree of verisimilitude, starting with an introduction that patiently explains, in the fashion of a textbook, why the Great Train Robbery was so shocking to Victorian England. The historical grounding continues with surprisingly delightful, antiquated, and unexplained British slang ("I can get a judy preggers in less--a dub lay is all I said," one character incomprehensibly says) and occasional asides into unusual aspects of Victorian British culture that modern readers might find shocking (for instance, the Victorian belief that sex with a virgin--the younger the better--could cure venereal disease).
Unfortunately, Crichton's apparent historical fidelity leads to a style of writing that, while always smooth and refreshingly clear, is strictly utilitarian, not beautiful. The benefit of this writing style is that it allows Crichton to explain every detail of the ingenious and enormously complex caper that Pierce pulls. This is a novel that succeeds wholly due to its plot--its characters, for instance, are paper thin--but Crichton does a great job outlining the planning, preparation, and then execution of Pierce's master plan.
Like Jeffrey Archer's Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, The Great Train Robbery is an enjoyable caper novel that is well worth your time.
Steven Wu's Book Reviews