On a rainy days like today, and yesterday, and probably tomorrow, I start to think “wouldn’t it be nice if it was sunny and I was on a train riding through the English countryside, with curious and attractive small towns and verdant and buzzing fields and such passing by outside my window?” And then I go back to reading the excellent collection of Golden Age British train-fueled mystery short stories Blood on the Tracks, and start to think, “hmm, maybe I’m safer inside with the rain outside dampening murderous thoughts?” One of the British Library Crime Classics collections (a fine series edited by writer and editor Martin Edwards, and one which unearths many mystery and crime gems nearly lost to history, usually placing them alongside some better-known hits), Blood on the Tracks boasts 15 stories that all share a train connection, making it a top choice for railway enthusiasts as well as mystery hounds – and for those, like me, who fit both categories? It’s dreamy! Our particular Cocktail Talk here comes from a story by R. Austin Freeman, a writer from that late 1800s, early 1900s Golden Age of crime fiction, one I don’t know well, but look forward to reading more from (probably with the help of more British Library Crime Classics!). In it, there are diamonds, a nefarious deed, actual blood on the tracks, a doctor detective of note, and wonderful usage of the wonderful word, “jorum.”
“Have a biscuit?” said Hickler, as he placed a whisky-bottle on the table together with a couple of his best star-pattern tumblers and a siphon.
“Thanks, I think will,” said Brodski. “The railway journey and all this confounded tramping about, you know.”
“Yes,” agreed Silas. “Doesn’t do you good to start with an empty stomach. Hope you don’t mind oat-cakes; I see they’re the only biscuit I have.”
Brodski hastened to assure him that oat-cakes were his special and peculiar fancy; and in confirmation, having mixed himself a stiff jorum, he fell to upon the biscuits with evident gusto.
–R. Austin Freeman, “The Case of Oscar Brodski”