Death Came Swiftly: A Novel about the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879

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On Sunday, 28 December 1879, a sudden and violent storm created a tidal wave of destruction. The Tay Bridge collapsed, sending a train crashing into the icy waters of Dundee, Scotland, killing all on board. The storm was an ungodly and unkind act of nature, attacking the bridge from every angle. The disaster shocked the nation and led to an inquiry that silenced the age of Scottish advancement.

Death Came Swiftly: A Novel about the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879 by William Abrams is an outstanding visual treat for lovers of both nonfiction and historical fiction. This has proven a pretty tough nut to crack for many an author, yet Abrams writes with such careful devotion to the subject matter that it’s impossible not to get invested in the book. This is a bold and unique piece of historical fiction. The author also manages to escape all the usual traps of the genre. The passages are never lost in flowery comprehensive description and explanation. Characters never get lost in the more compelling real-life events that the story is attempting to inject itself into. Rather, there is a sublime balance achieved in this book.

The book follows two main characters, Charles Jenkins and Stewart Darrs, as they attempt to uncover what caused the disaster. Jenkins is a young engineer who has committed his reputation to building safer bridges out of steel, while Darrs is a veteran engineer who has spent thirty years building railroads and iron bridges across Scotland and northern England. Together they serve as symbols of both the start and high of this era of English building.

The book, like its subject matter, contains such dread and longing, such sensational detail and insight. Abrams excels in the areas of the story that bathe in the details of the event and its aftermath. The consequences that this single significant event had on the Victorian age cannot be overstated, and Abrams does an excellent job bringing it to life. The characters and society, like the victims of the disaster, seem powerless as they search for answers. As the Titanic would later silence the promise of the Edwardian age, this single moment would shatter the faith of the Victorian era.

Even if the reader has foreknowledge of the events, they can’t help but be transported in this tale, as only the best of historical fiction can manage. It is a fantastic read that is sometimes lovely, usually haunting, and wildly entertaining.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 340 pages
Publisher The Sager Group LLC
Publish Date 10-Oct-2021
ISBN 9781950154623 Buy this Book
Issue February 2022
Category Historical Fiction