Arthur Bryant and John May are peculiar detectives and head up the Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU) which is now after being blown up in the first book, housed in offices above the tube at Mornington Crescent. They have been working together since the Second World War and have yet to retire despite their age but not their experience. Along the way they have picked up some misfits of their own both in and out of uniform and they have become a fairly eclectic mix of people to be able solve ‘peculiar’ crimes. There is still some disagreement about who runs the unit; the Metropolitan Police or the Home Office or in fact Arthur Bryant himself with his own reasons and motives.
No more peculiar than what is found at 5 Balaklava Street, an elderly woman sat in a chair in her basement bathroom – dead. Her mouth is full of river water? How can that be when she and the bathroom are completely dry? The street opens up a tributary of characters and with a handy map at the front of the book (very Agatha Christie) we get to see how the story unfolds and how the PCU are drawn into a case that has not been allocated to them or is in fact in their jurisdiction.
As the body count grows it becomes a race against time and tide for it all to be solved. The unit’s survival depends on it as they enter the secret world under London. This is not the criminal underworld but the water underworld where the lost underground of rivers of London are converge at one key place The Water Room. Where is the Water Room and what has a fire got to do with it and then a builder is found dead buried in earth? But an academic searching for something underground where a tramp is also hiding.
As the book progresses at a sedate pace for a greater part we begin to form ideas and clues as to what is happening. Bryant and May provide their pecuilarness to the PCU in the way they handle the case – rationally and with facts in May’s case or unconventional gut instinct and with strange acquaintances and friends who can shed some light on the underground waters of the streets of London.
There is no make believe here with Fowler, he has clearly done his research as these places do exist and this made it a very fascinating read with what I felt a somewhat ‘Da Vinci Code’ plot weaved in to make it that little bit more challenging for the detectives but also thrilling for us as readers.
This is the second Bryant and May novel and I heartedly recommend this and the first, as previous reviews have mentioned it is worth reading them in order as there are references to the first book. And again, I did nearly give up as I did with the first but by persevering I then spent as much time as I could once the pace does pick up and the rain continues to fall on all the characters and the water moves with some revealing consequences.
For those who love crime, mystery and history with a quirkiness. Then I suggest you seek out Christopher Fowler and sit back and enjoy.
This was the second book I have read in the Transworld Reading Challenge. This challenged closed at the end of August.
There is something about these books which makes me think of the BBC television programme New Tricks whilst they do not deal with Peculiar Crimes they deal with Unsolved ones. n the programme as in the book there is a camaraderie about what they do with the result always the same to discover the truth. If you have watched it or do (the current series is shortly coming to an end) Arthur Bryant I can see as Brian ‘Memory’ Lane and John May I can see as Jack Halford or vice – versa. I am not sure if this picture invades my imagination too much when I am reading the books or whether it helps it? Have you read any book which reminds you of a television programme too much? Hopefully in the future I will read the subsequent novels.