The Invisible Code (Bryant & May 10) by Christopher Fowler

Most peculiar…

🙂 🙂 🙂 😐

the invisible codeDetectives 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.

Christopher Fowler
Christopher Fowler

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.

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25 thoughts on “The Invisible Code (Bryant & May 10) by Christopher Fowler

  1. FictionFan – I know what you mean about disbelief. But that said, I do like the Bryant and May characters an awful lot. And I’m glad you mentioned the wit because it’s definitely there in the series. Somehow Fowler makes it work, at least for me.

    • Yes, the humour made the book enjoyable despite the other problems – and several reviewers have commented that this one isn’t one of the best, so I haven’t given up on the series completely. Now it’s just a matter of finding time to try one of the earlier ones… 🙂

  2. 😀 I think it was a bit of a ripio. The smileys in the beginning were exciting. Great review!!

    The anachronisms would quite annoying. I do find it interesting that they’re from the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Is that on purpose?

    • It was a strange one – there was so much wrong with it, and yet the overall experience was reasonably enjoyable because of the humour. But you’ll be glad to hear it’s been a fairly disappointing start to the year so far, so your TBR will probably be safe for a bit (though you might like next Monday’s…)

  3. Oh come on – Bryant and May? That’s the kind of “joke” that might work in a one-off, but in a series? I don’t have any objection to supernatural detection (or detectives) but I do like it to be clear by the end whether there is anything really spooky going on. So not one for my TBR list. Now, if you were reviewing the Dresden Files………

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