🙂 🙂 🙂 😐
Detectives Bryant and May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are called in to investigate when a young woman is found dead in a church. There is no obvious cause of death, so they have to decide whether this was murder – or was she the victim of some spooky supernatural…er…something. Meantime, their boss and archenemy Oskar Kasavian asks them to help find out why his wife seems to be going mad – because that’s always something you would ask the police to look into, isn’t it? Psychics, shades of Bedlam, and witch-hunters – just a normal day for Bryant and May…
This is most definitely a book that requires the reader to check her disbelief at the door. The plot is…well…I tried to think of a politer word, but ‘ridiculous’ is the most appropriate. Is there a supernatural theme or isn’t there? I genuinely have no idea. It’s hinted at throughout but never confirmed. And the anachronisms! If we were to date the book purely on the characterisation, we’d have to assume we were in the 1950s, but the technology makes it clear we’re supposed to be in the present day. So the idea that all top civil servants are male, that their wives don’t work and meet up weekly in Harrods for afternoon tea…again, ridiculous.
In the afterword, the author says that he was ‘determined to create a pair of intelligent Golden Age detectives who are forced to deal with the modern world.’ Hmm…intelligent, I grant you. In fact, Bryant appears to have as encyclopaedic a knowledge of London as Holmes did, and the descriptions of some of the less well-known places are one of the main interests of the book. Golden Age? Well, they’re old – but most of the Golden Age detectives of my experience tended to rule out supernatural causes. And modern world – the only concession to modernity is that they all have mobile phones. Otherwise even Poirot would have felt at home in this mid-20th century society.
However, so long as the reader doesn’t expect the book to make any sense or have any basis in the real world, it’s a fairly enjoyable light-hearted read. Bryant and May are likeable characters, and there’s quite a lot of mild humour in the book. The writing is good, particularly of the spooky bits even though these didn’t really make sense or go anywhere in the end. This is my first Bryant and May and, while it was fairly enjoyable overall, it wouldn’t encourage me to read the rest of the series. But, looking at the reviews on Amazon, the series seems to have a dedicated and loyal following and several reviewers suggest this one isn’t up to the usual standard; so I would be reluctant to write off the whole series on the basis of this one book, and may try an earlier one at some point. 3½ stars for me, so rounded up to 4.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House.