Bryant & May – Strange Tide by Christopher Fowler

I thought I’d lost you. I watched you head off into the fog to say your goodbyes to London and honestly thought I’d never see you again. You can be a right sod sometimes.

Strange TideAfter the extremely final-seeming Bryant & May and the Burning Man, the intrepid octogenarian sleuths are back. But things are not what they were. With the eccentric Arthur Bryant forced out of the unit by his worsening mental health, John May and the rest of the team need to track down the murderer of a young woman found tied up and left to drown in the Thames. But with only one set of footprints leading to the body, how did the killer – if indeed there was one – make his or her escape?

Soon the river is giving up more bodies but the Peculiar Crimes Units finds itself floundering without the inspiration of Arthur Bryant. But while he still wants to help out, he finds himself wandering parts of London where even he has never walked before…

Sometimes it takes a great book to see how… flat some other books are. I’ve enjoyed most of the books that I’ve read lately, but with one exception – review coming nearer the release date – they seem flat in comparison to this one. And it’s not the plot but the background detail that Fowler fills the story with. You’d think he’d have run out of anecdotes of London history by now, but the asides, both relevant and red herring, really make the book shine out.

I’ll admit, I was a little in two minds about this one before reading it. You see, Bryant & May and the Burning Man was a near-perfect finale. And the ending as the two friends went their separate ways for what seemed to be the last time brought a tear to my eye. So to find out that their adventures weren’t over… well, it undermined it a bit. But in the end, I couldn’t resist, and the quote above won me over completely. It’s the sort of thing Arthur Bryant would do.

Plotwise, it’s complex enough to keep the reader guessing while not being so convoluted as to require a flow-chart to keep track of who’s who. Ali Bensaud, the central character who the tale increasingly revolves around, is a fascinating character, as we see him build up a new life in London, determined to become a success at any price…

I’ve said before that sometimes John May can get over-shadowed by his partner – something Christopher Fowler has admitted too – and here, with Arthur sidelined, we get to see a little more of John’s character, especially after… no, not going to hint at that (unlike the blurb – beware!). The rest of the cast get their own page time as well, with each of the PCU getting some movement in their lives. As for Arthur… was the author planning the developments here when he wrote the Burning Man? Is it a bit of a cheat? No matter, as it seems we can look forward to more adventures from the dynamic duo and friends in the future. And I for one look forward to the next one…

I did go to say goodbye to London. But perhaps London isn’t quite finished with me.

Many thanks to Random House for the review copy via Netgalley. Bryant & May – Strange Tide is out now.

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18 comments

  1. Good review Puzzle Doctor, but I thought there would be more of a twist over Arthur Bryant’s return. However, it’s a very enjoyable series.

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  2. I’ve only read the first, and loved it, so I have all the others on my TBR pile. (yes, it’s a huge pile.) But I’m a visual person and when I read a series, I like to picture actors playing the parts. I’m stumped for these two characters. Can you suggest who might play their roles if these were ever made into a BBC series?

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    • Crikey – good question. John May, probably someone like Simon Williams – charming, aged well. Arthur Bryant is a bit harder… hmm… old actor, eccentric… Timothy West maybe, although I see Arthur as physically smaller. David Bradley maybe… Anton Lesser perhaps… Sylvester McCoy. Oh, I know. David Warner does a nice line in eccentrics these days. He’d be perfect. There you go – Warner and Williams. Get the BBC on the phone.

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      • Wow, lots of options. Thanks for the suggestions (not that I have anything to do with casting for the BBC.) 🙂

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  3. Funny, but The Burning Man never seemed “final” to me, so my eyes remained dry 🙂 Glad to know that this book is a good one.

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    • One of the reasons that I thought it was final is that I’m pretty sure it was announced as such. It didn’t take long for Strange Tide to be announced, so that might have just been Christopher Fowler playing games with us…

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