A banking scandal has proved to be the tipping point and protesters fill the streets of the City. As the protests turn violent and the fires start to burn, a dark shadow takes advantage of the chaos on the streets. A homeless man is burned to death as he sleeps. A banker is encased in tar. With murders that are “a bit Dr Phibes”, who else are you going to call but the Peculiar Crimes Unit?
A city on the verge of collapse? A psychopath targetting apparently random victims? All in a days work, usually. But things are not what they were. Arthur Bryant, the octogenarian maverick that the team orbits around is hiding a devastating secret. Things are coming to an end – and not all endings are happy ones…
I’m really not sure what to say about this one. I finished it last night and I’m still thinking about it. Let’s go for some facts first and then try to get the emotional bit out of the way in a couple of paragraphs’ time.
This is the twelfth in the Bryant and May series. If you haven’t encountered them before, then you are certainly missing out. Christopher Fowler is such a complete writer, marrying plot with character seamlessly and never choosing the easy way out with character arcs. Add in the huge background colour of the City and Arthur Bryant’s tales of its past (and of a variety of other topics as well) and you get such a reading experience. It’s like the bastard lovechild of Poirot, your favourite soap opera and QI. In a good way. Oh, and it’s also laugh-out-loud funny in places. Which makes certain parts all the more powerful – Chapter 35, for example, brought me to tears. And that’s only halfway through…
And I don’t want to say any more about the plot. Because a reader should go into this book not knowing what to expect. Yes, there’s a clever mystery at the heart of it, so my usual readers will enjoy it for that, but this is so much more. New readers should try it because it’s simply the best of an outstanding series (and does not spoil what has gone before, so you can go back and savour the earlier books afterwards). Old readers… brace yourself because this is, apparently, the end. A perfect ending, as ongoing plots are brought to their conclusion seemlessly. And when you finish the book, if you’re not still thinking about the final chapter the next day, then there’s something wrong with you.
This is an outstanding novel, the best thing that I’ve read in ages (and that’s up against some stiff competition). Highly Recommended – and an essential read for fans of the series. But don’t forget the tissues…
Many thanks to Random House for providing me with this review copy via NetGalley. It’s out to buy next month.
This review is part of my attempt at Readathon UK for the school where I work – ten books between 6th Feb and 5th March. If you want to make a donation to the children’s charities that they support, then please visit their Just Giving page.
More Bryant & May Reviews:
- Bryant & May On The Loose
- Bryant & May Off The Rails
- Bryant & May and the Memory Of Blood
- Bryant & May and the Invisible Code
- Bryant & May – The Bleeding Heart