Murder in the First-Class Carriage

Murder in the First-Class Carriage

The First Victorian Railway Killing

Additional Formats
  • ePub
  • ISBN 9781590208861
  • 352 Pages
  • Adult


Did a small, neat, mild-mannered, Dickens-reading tailor commit the first railway murder in history –a crime that shocked both America and Britain? In July 1864, Thomas Briggs was traveling home after visiting his niece and her husband for dinner. He boarded a first-class carriage on the 9:45 pm Hackney service of the North London railway. A short time later, two bank clerks entered the compartment and noticed blood pooled in the seat cushions and smeared all over the floor and windows. But there was no sign of Thomas Briggs. All that remained was his ivory-knobbed walking stick, his empty leather bag, and a bloodstained hat that, strangely, did not belong to Mr. Briggs. The race to identify the killer and catch him as he fled on a boat to America was eagerly followed by the public on both sides of the Atlantic. The investigation and subsequent trial became a fixture in New York newspapers–and a frequent distraction from the Civil War that ravaged the nation. In Murder in the First-Class Carriage, acclaimed writer Kate Colquhoun tells the gripping tale of a crime that shocked an era.


"The author’s suspenseful writing style and clear prose make the tale easy to read . . . Colquhoun expertly places the murder within the larger context of British, Continental European and American history . . . Colquhoun successfully balances suspense with historical accuracy."
– –Kirkus
"Deploying her skill as a historian, Colquhoun turns a single curious murder case into a fascinatingly quirky portrait of the underside of mid- Victorian London. I found it unputdownable."
– –Daily Telegraph
"[A] thrilling book, which reads at times like a good Victorian novel . . . an utterly compelling did-he-do-it."
– –The Sunday Times
"An enthralling account of a real life mystery . . . Her well-told tale would stand up in court–unlike much of the evidence in the case." 
– — The Independent
"Kate Colquhoun is a fine, robust writer who makes the most of its every twist and turn."
– –The Mail on Sunday
"The re-telling of this true story pits justice against baying-for-blood hysteria in a sensationally episodic tale that is every bit as compelling as it must have been when it happened."
– –Easy Living
"A suspenseful, well-paced account of a baffling mystery."
– –Washington Post
"A thrilling book, which reads at times like a good Victorian novelŠan utterly compelling did-he-do-it."
– –Sunday Times
"Enthralling. . . . A fascinatingly quirky portrait of the underside of mid-Victorian London. I found it unputdownable."
– — Miranda Seymour, The Telegraph
"The weight of evidence is in the balance to the very end. . . . Mesmerizing."
– –The Guardian
"Journalist Colquhoun has crafted a marvelously suspenseful account of the investigation, a trans-Atlantic manhunt, and the ensuing trial. This is an intriguing story about emerging forensics and also an engaging social history, focusing on how a spectacular crime, the first on a British railroad, riveted public attention."
– –Booklist
"More than a well-spun tale of searching for justice amid hype, Murder in the First-Class Carriage reveals the underside of Victorian life, where interest in the macabre flourished alongside the propriety modern readers may expect. Fans of true crime and the general reader alike will appreciate Colquhuon’s talent for enlivening facts with everyday moments. The story is especially noteworthy for its balance between the case itself and the atmospheric, gas-lit city in which it occurred."
– –Foreword Reviews
"Ms. Colquhoun’s meticulously researched true-crime account, first published in England, is a tick-tock of the arrest and trial of a German tailor following a chase across the Atlantic…its final revelation is a showstopper."
– –New York Times
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