JOHN OXENHAM – Mystery on the Underground

Now it has to be said straight away that compared to Lady Sannox, this isn’t brilliant at all; there’s little real sense of mystery and, if I’m honest, it’s not aged particularly well. I also thought the ending was a bit woolly and unsatisfactory, but I suppose that’s what you get after such a mystery masterclass.

All of that being said, there is still a bit to delight a reader, especially this one, who squeaked in delight about the fact that the bulk of the story is set on that part of the District Line on which I regularly commute! The plot revolves around the hunt for a serial killer on the Underground, and the majority of the murders are committed around 9.15pm on Tuesday nights between Mansion House and Sloane Square. It’s a stretch of the Underground I know well, although I try to be home and dry by that time.

All the victims are shot through an open carriage window and such witnesses as there are all claim to have neither heard nor seen anything. It’s the details like the opening windows and the fact that the carriages have classes that really date the story, which is a dreadful shame, because it could work well on a modern setting, I’m sure.

The story is also written in faux reportage style, and I can quite well imagine contemporary readers actually forgetting that this is a work of fiction. In fact, at the time it caused such a fuss that passenger numbers plummeted and London Underground bosses lodged a formal complaint with the publishers. Perhaps that’s why the ending is so weak – and moved to the sea.

It is quite a fun little story and I did enjoy it – particularly the bit when they found a victim at my station – but it’s not the best I’ve read and I can’t really recommend people digging it out especially.


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