Monday, July 29, 2013

Bryant and May on the Loose by Christopher Fowler

Reviewed by Jeanne

Having stepped on a few toes too many, the Peculiar Crimes Unit has been disbanded and its members scattered hither and yon—at least until a headless corpse is discovered in a politically sensitive area at a politically sensitive time.  The Powers That Be grudgingly decide to let May reassemble the team-- not an easy task when some have gone on to other jobs and Bryant has taken to his bathrobe and books. They have less than a week to solve the case, and they have to do so without any real authority, no access to official channels and an office without a working toilet but with a rather large pentagram.While May and most of the others spend their time following the money trail, Bryant gets sidetracked by a report of some crackpot wearing antlers made of cutlery who may or may not have anything to do with the case.

Such is the premise for Bryant and May on the Loose, the seventh in Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May series. This was the first time I’d tried a book in this series and I harbor the very strong suspicion that if I had deliberately set out to pick the worst possible place to start, it would be this book.  There are too many characters I’m supposed to know about already and I had trouble keeping them all straight.  There were a number of scenes which I knew were probably Very Significant but I didn’t know why.  On the other hand, I did keep reading because I enjoyed the writing and the fascinating bits of London history that were constantly being dropped.  I don’t recall ever hearing about the Saint Pancras Old Church before, but it plays a major role in the story; if I ever get to London, I want to pay a visit.

By the end I was admiring the way that Bryant and May both reached a conclusion through very different routes:  one from the realm of superstitions and strange forces and the other from very solid, non-mystical means, and no way to saying which one was right.  In fact they were both a bit right and both a bit wrong:  that’s quite a balancing act.

If you like your mysteries to be very British, with large dollops of history, folklore, clever observations and humor, this series might just be the ticket for you.  Personally, I’m intrigued enough to try another in the series and would recommend the series-- though I'd suggest starting with an earlier book.

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