When last we saw octogenarian detectives Arthur Bryant and John May, in Bryant & May and The Memory of Blood, they had captured the Punch and Judy murderer, but there were still some loose ends – notably the unexplained death of Arthur’s biographer. The few clues they had seemed to lead in a very dangerous direction.
That element of the case comes back to haunt them as they are thrust into an apparent government conspiracy. While Arthur is determined to investigate the mysterious death of a young woman, found alone in an isolated church with no apparent cause of death, the entire Peculiar Crimes Unit is recruited by Oskar Kasavian, their overall boss. He is on the verge of an important political breakthrough, but his wife has begun acting strangely – it seems she is being haunted by devils…
The last of my reads that took place while recovering from surgery, I picked this one from my kindle library for the consistent strength of this series. While I’ve certainly enjoyed some entries more than others, the one constant that keeps bringing me back to the series is the wonderful cast of characters. And I don’t just mean Bryant and May, but all of the members of the PCU and some support beyond that as well. Christopher Fowler has such a strong grasp of how each of these characters think that the reader – especially one who has been with them since the start of the series – finds themselves caring about them and desperate to know how their lives have moved forward. That was exactly what I was looking for in a read at this moment in time – familiarity, coupled with the author’s flair for an original plot – and that was exactly what I got. A number of sections left me with a smile on my face, in particularly one exchange between the lovestruck Colin and the antagonistic Meera that hopefully will have given her something to think about.
Oh, the plot? It’s a bit of a left-turn from the Grand Guignol of The Memory of Blood, as you would expect from a writer who seems determined to make no two books the same (in a good way) being more conspiracy thriller than classic whodunit – although the story does have that aspect as well. Having said that, there are a number of good twists along the way, with a real sense of menace oozing throughout the background. Most of the plot points hanging over from the previous book are resolved here, but the author leaves us wanting more yet again with the appearance of one of the most sinister characters that have appeared in the series – heaven knows what’s going to happen when Mr Merry returns… Luckily, Bryant & May and The Bleeding Heart is out now, with a review coming soon.
So, overall, great characters, an intriguing plot, yet more trappings of London’s dark past, and an ending leaving me wanting more. Obviously, this is Highly Recommended.