Originally built to house the workers of Victorian London, Balaklava Street is now an oasis in the heart of Kentish Town and ripe for gentrification. But then the body of an elderly woman is found at Number 5. Her death would appear to have been peaceful but for the fact that her throat is full of river water. It falls to the Met's Peculiar Crimes Unit, led by London's longest-serving detectives, Arthur Bryant and John May, to search for something resembling a logical solution.
Their initial investigations draw a blank and Bryant's attention is diverted into strange and arcane new territory, while May finds himself in hot water when he attempts to save the reputation of an academic whose knowledge of the city's forgotten underground rivers looks set to ruin his career. In the meantime, the new owner of Number 5 is increasingly unsettled by the damp in the basement of her home, the particularly resilient spiders and the ghostly sound of rushing water . . .
Pooling their information to investigate hitherto undiscovered secrets of the city, Bryant and May make some sinister connections and realize that, in a London filled with the rich, the poor and the dispossessed, there's still something a desperate individual is willing to kill for - and kill again to protect. With the PCU facing an uncertain future, the death toll mounts and two of British fiction's most enigmatic detectives must face madness, greed and revenge, armed only with their wits, their own idiosyncratic practices and a plentiful supply of boiled sweets, in a wickedly sinuous mystery that goes to the heart of every London home.
Traditional mystery buffs with a taste for the offbeat will relish British author Fowler's wonderful second contemporary whodunit featuring the Peculiar Crimes Unit and its elderly odd couple, Arthur Bryant and John May (after 2004's Full Dark House). A former colleague asks the eccentric Bryant, whose lack of polish coupled with a razor-sharp mind will remind many of Carter Dickson's Sir Henry Merrivale, to investigate his sister's death. Incredibly, the victim was found dead in her basement, apparently drowned, despite the absence of any moisture on her body or her surroundings. Bryant rapidly loops in his more down-to-earth partner, May, who has also been looking into a mystery with a personal connection the unusual nocturnal ramblings of a disgraced academic who has begun probing London's underground rivers. More strange deaths follow before the unmasking of the surprising murderer. The author's black humor evokes Peter Lovesey's Peter Diamond series, and his successful revival of the impossible crime genre is reminiscent of John Sladek's superb Thackeray Phin novels, Invisible Green and Black Aura. Best known for his horror fiction (Rune, etc.), Fowler should win a whole new set of readers with these fair-play puzzlers.
Really enjoyed reading my first Bryant and May. Great detectives with enough flaws to keep you interested without being annoying. The story is based around london rivers which was quite informative. I didn't guess the killer until the end which kept me engrossed until the last page. I will read more in the series.
If you like British crime fiction with some esoteric bits and Fortean leanings then this is for you. After reading this you will end up loving Bryant, if you don't live in London you will want to visit and you will need to check if your house is on a flood plain.
It's very British but I like that. The perfect book for a rainy day.