The Great Train Robbery

The Great Train Robbery

Posted by jack_miller | Published 6 months ago



With 531 ratings

By: Michael Crichton, Michael Kitchen, et al.

Purchased At: $16.95

In teeming Victorian London, where lavish wealth and appalling poverty live side by side, Edward Pierce charms the most prominent of the well-to-do as he cunningly orchestrates the crime of the century. Who would suspect that a gentleman of breeding could mastermind the daring theft of a fortune in gold? Who could predict the consequences of making the extraordinary robbery aboard the pride of England's industrial era, the mighty steam locomotive? Based on fact, as lively as legend, and studded with all the suspense and style of a modern fiction master, here is a classic caper novel set a decade before the age of dynamite - yet nonetheless explosive....

Michael Crichton wrote and directed the screen adaptation of The Great Train Robbery, starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland.

This was an enjoyable, well-written book. My one complaint is that the author spoils the ending very early on, frequently alluding to things that take place later in the story or after it. The story was still clever and fun to read along with, but the only mystery was seeing how they could pull things off, and it's a testament to the author's writing skills that he kept me interested without any real source of suspense. Still, I think that this book could have gone from good to great with some changes in the style.

- ashley_perez

Michael Crichton may be long gone but his books still grab you. The Great Train Robbery is a great tale from beginning to end, enormously well researched to reflect the language and mores of Victorian times, and produces great suspense up to a highly satisfactory ending, Better yet it tells of a true event that Crichton doesn't have to work very hard to embellish. One of those books you simply enjoy reading and are sorry it has to end.

- emery_anderson

I like sci-fi stories typically but decided to try this one since it was by one of my favorite sci-fi authors. The story is based on true events and there is a lot of historical information interspliced in between the narrative sections. I actually learned a lot about Victorian England in the course of listening to this. The story was great, and long enough for a few car rides (about 8.5 hours). There aren't any voice actors or sound effects or anything like that. However, the person reading does so with enough inflection that you can easily differentiate the characters that are talking. The only strange thing is how they split it up amongst the 7 CDs: they don't end a chapter or anything, or even a paragraph. The CD just stops mid-paragraph and says to put in the next disc, then picks right up. One of the discs (I think it was 5) ends mid-conversation which I though was strange. But a minor nit overall.

- antonio_edwards

I suppose I was lucky. I had no idea what the story was or how it would end. It strikes me as a masterful telling of a sociopath in a culture whose inconsistencies and inequities made it very easy to feel nothing but contempt for the established culture and the established ruling class. The cunning and patience of the master planner is impressive. As always, I can’t look closely at a different culture without a experiencing a greater awareness of my own. This awareness is often not fun but it strikes me as very worthwhile.

- azariah_ross

The Great Train Robbery is a satisfying read. It combines historical facts—the first successful robbery from a moving train—how it was planned and executed; all gleaned from English court transcripts (they caught them). Another plus, it provides a realistic examination of Victorian England’s culture during the1830’s; all nicely woven together as a novel by one of the best writers of the era.
I read this book in 1976 as required reading for a criminology class at college. It has remained a favorite, and one of my go-to titles when I need to offer a book recommendation to someone. It will not disappoint.

- danny_brown

I think if I had not heard from a reviewer that this was a thrill ride mystery, I would have been happier with this book from the beginning. I gradually adjusted my expectations and came to be quite interested in this story but I am not sure if it is one I will ever reread.

This book is very closely based on an actual train robbery. It reads like a nonfiction book. And you know from the beginning who the culprits are and that they go to trial. A lot of the story was put together through records of their testimonies. It was fascinating to see all of the pieces of the huge heist come together. It made me wonder if Ocean’s 11 was based on this crime.

- raven_rivera

I'm puzzled by the reviews calling this book boring. I loved the audio version. Maybe it wouldn't keep one's attention in book form after a long day, but on a long road trip it was a the perfect audio "read". Fascinating detail and history and a good imaginative yarn. I'm glad I didn't know it was largely fiction until after I'd listened to it--twice.

- decker_patel

Seeing the excellent movie made from this book (directed by Michael Crichton) reminded me that I'd never read the book, so I sought out a library copy. After reading it, I decided I wanted to own it and was able to find a very satisfactory used copy and read it again.

In the director's commentary on the film DVD, Crichton says that he wanted it to be something between a documentary and just a caper flick. I'm not sure how well he succeeds in that in the film; the set decorators and costume designers did a great job, but this "show, don't tell" approach can do only so much. The book, on the other hand, includes numerous essays on life in Victorian times: about the growth of railroads and the importance of trains and why the train robbery was so shocking, about safes and locks and the security of the times, about the position of women and the difficulty of being an old maid, about "ratting sports," about the activities of Rotten Row, about the Crystal Palace, about Victorian horror of premature burial, and about all manner of crimes and deceptions, with details that are only hinted at in the film.

But this very factual historical background makes it very tempting to believe that the entire story is true--which it is not. Not that it isn't very convincing. As you read the book, you have to firmly remind yourself of this because Crichton confidently quotes verbatim from invented newspaper stories and includes extended excerpts from entirely fictitious books. The best example of this is detailed at http://hnn.us/article/153726 ("A Tale Worthy of Poe: The Myth of George Bateson and his Belfry").

The cultural history is just lagniappe, though. The distinctive characters and meticulously plotted story are what make this book worth rereading. On rereading, I was impressed and pleased again by the design of the book--not just the typography and graphics but the way Crichton has divided the story into discrete parts and chapters almost like acts and scenes. Most of the chapters are quite short, and each is a little jewel that advances just one aspect of the plot.

Having become more knowledgeable about the actual Great Train Robbery of 1855, and having listened to Crichton's director's commentary on the movie DVD, I was even more impressed with this book the second time through. When I first read it, I was impressed with the amount of research Crichton had done and the way he made it read like fiction. The second time I knew that it was almost entirely fiction, so I was equally impressed with his creativity and imagination. As he says on the DVD, "the original episode...was considerably more seedy," and "the real details are sordid and grubby and lacking in drama." Although Crichton did not base his story on the trial transcripts (which he didn't know existed) or on actual newspaper stories (though the book includes several such that he invented), it is clear that he must have done at least some research on the original crime, as the story he tells does match the historical event at some points. But, as he says of the film, "I really like this train robbery a lot better. I'm much more pleased with this version."

Indeed. Crichton has made a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and it is well worth reading. For readers who have enjoyed the book, I do also recommend the film, which is equally excellent in its own way, and I especially recommend listening to the director's commentary, which brings out many fascinating aspects of the story.

- mitchell_gomez

I really enjoyed this book and would encourage anyone to read it. So why only 4 stars? Reading other reviews, it appears that many enjoyed the snippets of historical information that peppered the book, but for me they were sometimes an irritation. It felt like Michael Crichton, having amassed large amounts of information in researching the book, was not going to allow any fact to go to waste regardless of its essential relevance to the narrative. (I could hear Michael Caine saying "Not a lot of people know that"!). But this is a mild criticism only and as proof I have just ordered the DVD starring Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley Ann Down (screenplay also by Michael Crichton) which I am very much looking forward to.

- gavin_myers

If you know Crichton's thrillers you will know his style. His characters are not especially memorable but his painstaking build-up of details adds pace and enjoyability. Here he has collected a Victorian Train Robbery - the first, in fact. And the details of Victorian criminality lend savour to a pacy run-up to the actual robbery.

I recommend this book.

- damian_jackson

Brilliant read. We have the Audible version read by Michael Kitchen but wanted the paper version too.

- jayden_sanchez

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