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The Great Train Robbery [Mass Market Paperback]

Michael Crichton
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars APPARENTLY, I SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST Dec 4 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Following Michael Crichton's untimely death, I decided to complete my library with his works. The GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY was the only one missing and, I must say, although not the usual Science-Thriller Crichton had accustomed us to, it had the writer's signature iconoclastic approach to everything he wrote about.

Set in mid-19th century London, this novel is half historic travelogue through all strata of Victorian society and half an interesting roller-coaster ride on setting up and carrying through the infamous heist.

The period dialogue gave me trouble in more than one occasion at first but after a while you get used to it and you barely notice it. This is one of the early works of Crichton and although some of his flaws as a writer are present, so are most of his strengths: the secondary characters are barely fleshed out; on the other hand, his acute perception, solid research and multifocal vision does not pause before shattering long-held misconceptions and prejudices.

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5.0 out of 5 stars He wanted the money June 5 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The time is 1855 and the place is London. Edward Pierce, a master con artist, wants to hijack 12,000 pounds sterling that is being sent by rail to fund the Crimean War. It won't be easy. The money is locked in a safe, made triple-strong, with four keys, each key stored in a different location. All four keys must be found and copied without raising any suspicion. It's a task that would daunt all but the most capable. Fortunately, Pierce is more than up to the job. He's got several things going for him: a razor-sharp intelligence, nerves of steel, patience, cunning, and not least of all, his mysterious mistress, Miss Miriam. Pierce and his confederates spend a year working on their plans. But things have a habit of going awry at the damndest times. Can they pull it off? Maybe. Can they get away with it? Hmmm....
Michael Crichton has written a humdinger of a period suspense novel with telling touches that bring us right into the middle of the Victoria era. For instance, just finding a key in a Victorian living room could be a week-long search, given how cluttered the average living room was at that time. And train travel, still fairly new, was the object almost of worship. A train robbery was infinitely worse than, say, robbing a bank. Who would have the unmitigated gall to rob a train? Well, Pierce would, for one. And why would he commit such a dastardly crime? Because, as Pierce explained, as if talking to a three year old, he wanted the money.
As in his fiction books, Crichton's research into Victorian London and train travel is solid, and the book has a sense of unquestionable authenticity. One gets the feeling Crichton had a lot of fun writing it. We see a lot of Crichton himself in Pierce: his intelligence, his wit, his painstaking attention to detail. The book scores both as a good novel and well-researched social history. It's one of Crichton's best.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Job Well Done Nov. 16 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Great Train Robbery was an excellent book. It is about an Edward Pierce, who pulls together some of England's finest pullsman, screwsman, corksmen (in other words, criminals), to try and pull of an amazing heist. This, as all jobs, can draw many accomplishments and drawbacks. The main operators in this crime are Robert Agar, a pickpocket that has been with Pierce since the start, a mysterious Ms. Miriam, an incredible actress, and Barlow, a thug who takes care of the "dirty work". These lead to an overall fascinating book.
The author, Michael Crichton (who has written other thrillers such as "Jurassic Park" and "Timeline"), must have done a lot of research to get all the background information that is packed in to strengthen the story and give it a historical quality. I love any movie/book that show how cons are done and the intelligence it takes to conceive this plan. The Great Train Robbery has plenty of this for those who like to see how the puzzle fits together.
I gave this book a four because there were some parts that were frankly a little boring for my taste. For example, there were 3 to 4 page essays on Victorian homes, and I couldn't see the real connection between this and the story. Only a couple sentences would be of real importance to the book. I know that Michael Crichton put a ton of effort into getting the information for these little interludes, but I just needed a little more action, without the breaks. Otherwise, this book is genius.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
When man first descended from the trees and walked upright, his average speed was 4 miles an hour. In 1800, a man on a horse could travel 10 miles an hour. Then, between 1815 and 1850, the steam engine and the train catapulted the average speed to 40 miles an hour, with a maximum speed of 70 miles an hour. Today, we find such speeds common place. But at the time, all was a complete mystery to ordinary people. For example, falling from a moving train was not generally understood to be fatal. people assumed that falling from a train was much like falling from a horse--it all depended on how you landed.
Crichton artfully weaves this type of historical perspective inot a riveting story about the greatest train robbery of all time--which never would have been tried had they understood what they were doing. But in this case, ignorance was bliss, and it worked, against all odds.
Not the Crichton you may be expecting...there is science, but it is the science of the 1800's; no cutting edge technology, unless you consider the invention of wax to make keys new technology--which it was; no exotic locales.
Instead, Crichton takes us back to England in the 1850's--at the end of the Crimean War, and less than a decade before the U.S. Civil War, and during the hey day of mass industrialization. Crichton does an excellent job of setting the stage and reminding us just where the roots of our current urban society lie, and just how recently those roots were first sunk into the rural past.
Having set the stage, Crichton weaves the history with a great crime novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A time machine to Victorian England
Micheal Crichton, masterfully gives a wonderful account. He hits the ball out of the park three times. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read It Again ...
I read this book years ago and it has to be be one of the best books I have ever read. In all, I have read about 400 books in my lifetime and this has got to be in the top 10. Read more
Published 7 months ago by moonfish
5.0 out of 5 stars Decidedly a page-turner!!!
This review is for the hardcover edition measuring 9 1/2 X 6 1/2 having 352 pages and no photos.
I would have liked to have seen photos of the principals as, in fact they WERE... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Wayne Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars great combo of thrills and historical fiction!
I have never been the biggest Crichton fan, Stories about Brining Dinosaurs back to life just seem a bit too farfetched to me, but maybe I need to give some of his other books a... Read more
Published on Dec 8 2007 by Sara Chung
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
This book is fabulous. Its a very intruiging look at the master plan behind one of the greatest robberies of all time. Read more
Published on July 14 2004 by Anthony Scheff
5.0 out of 5 stars sweet
The great train robbery is a great book about well a u train robbery. A group of men in 19 century England that are bent on robbing alone of the most heavily guarded shipments of... Read more
Published on April 22 2004 by gerrat
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Book....Some Parts Boring Though Too
In my opinion, this book is just, OK. It was a little boring sometimes, but kind of exciting too. I don't think that you will enjoy reading the book. Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2004 by James C. Zingaro
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Novel; Enthralling
The Great Train Robbery is not only Crichton's best novel, it is also a great work, period. Crichton turns a heist-story from long ago into a window on early Victorian England. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Crichton's Start
I think that this historical fiction book gives the reader an accurate portrayal of Victorian England. The plot devised is so intricate that the reader comes back for more. Read more
Published on May 10 2003
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