The Great Train Robbery, Week 2

Welcome to Week 2 of the Online Book Club discussion of The Great Train Robbery

Were you sucked into the story from the beginning? It took me about two chapters to really get into the story, but after that, I was hooked. I liked how the pieces of the story unfolded slowly--it was nice to have the story emerge piece by piece. Sometimes, I feel like that can slow the story down, but in this case, it just made me want to keep reading.

In these first two sections, the biggest obstacle that Pierce and his companions overcame was the problem of the four keys. They knew that two keys for the safes were stored in the railway office, and they knew, from a conversation with Fowler that Fowler kept the third key on his person at all times. But, the group had to figure out where Edgar Trent kept the fourth and final key, and they had to figure out a way to get copies of all of the keys. I thought it was fascinating the way they went about securing the keys. I felt sad that Elizabeth Trent was just used for her connection to her father. I think she was probably a nice person, and she didn't deserve to be dragged around by Pierce. She did inadvertently share that her father had a weird habit of going in the wine cellar in the mornings, and that made Pierce believe that Trent was storing his safe key down there. Were you surprised that Trent's key was actually the first key they obtained? I thought it was going to be the hardest one to get, but it ended up being pretty easy. I liked how they did that carriage fake to gain entry to Trent's house. 

It was hard for them to get the keys from the railway office! There were so many moving parts during that section. I couldn't believe that they were able to keep everything straight. Could you believe they actually got the keys? What did you think about the fact that they used that little boy as a distraction so that Agar could pick locks in the office? That was wild that that actually worked. Watch the clip below if you'd like to see how that scene played out onscreen. 

Were you shocked during the section about the hanging that public hangings seemed like public entertainment? I couldn't believe the people around the hanging site would rent out their houses so that rich people could watch the hanging without being around the common folk. I cannot imagine wanting to watch something so gruesome. That sounds disgusting. But, the hanging did provide a distraction for Willy to escape from prison. Want to read more about the prison that Willy escaped from? Check out this article about the Newgate Prison. It sounds like a pretty ugly and sad place. 

Were you curious why Pierce wants so much lead shot? I thought that was an interesting thing to need. I assume it's something needed for the robbery, but I can't imagine what. Do you think they are going to be shooting a lot of people? That doesn't really seem like Pierce's style, though. 

This section ends with Pierce getting a leopard. This leopard allows Agar to go on the train unnoticed, and then, he is able to work on the safes. The team now has an inside man, Burgess, so it seems like they will be unstoppable. I thought it was so interesting that all of the men agreed to work for Pierce, and they did so much work without knowing what they were going to be stealing. Agar didn't know for sure until the very last page of this section. They must have trusted that Pierce had something really big to take. Did you catch that when Crichton was writing about the people's interest in leopards that he mentioned an automaton statue of a leopard attacking a man can still be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum? Clink this link if you're interested in seeing the automaton that captivated the interest of the people. Make sure to watch the video at the end of that article, so you can see how the automaton was played!

What do you think will happen in the next section? We still have half of the book left! Do you think they will end up being successful? 

I hope you enjoyed reading this section. I can't wait to hear all of your thoughts in the comments! Make sure to read Part 3 for next week!