They are detection’s oddest couple: two cranky detectives whose professional partnership dates back half a century. Now Arthur Bryant and John May return in a case of multiple murder that twists through a subterranean course of the secrets, lies, and extreme passions that drive even ordinary men and women to the most shocking crimes….
They are living legends with a reputation for solving even the trickiest cases using unorthodox, unconventional, and often completely unauthorized methods. But the Peculiar Crimes Unit headed by Detectives John May and Arthur Bryant is one mistake away from being shut down for good. And when the elderly sister of Bryant’s friend is found dead in the basement of her decrepit house in Kentish Town, they find themselves on the verge of making exactly that mistake.
According to the coroner, Ruth Singh’s heart simply stopped beating. But why was a woman who rarely left the house fully dressed for an outing? And why was there river water in her throat? Convinced that the old lady didn’t die a natural death, the detectives delve into a murky case with no apparent motive, no forensics, and no clues. And they’ve barely launched their investigation when death claims another victim. Suddenly they discover some very unnatural behavior surrounding Ruth Singh’s death by “natural” causes—from shady real estate developers and racist threats to two troubled marriages, from a dodgy academician working London’s notorious “grey economy” to a network of antiquities collectors obsessed with Egyptian mythology. And running beneath it all are the sweeping tentacles of London’s vast and forgotten underground river system. As the rains pour down and the water rises, Bryant and May must rely on instinct, experience, and their own very peculiar methods to stem a tide of evil that threatens to drown them all.
From the Hardcover edition.
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.
Invigorating and original
I bought this book on the recommendation of my sister-in-law and it was excellent. Fast-paced, interesting and rather unique. The characters and dialog were especially well-developed. It reads like an old-fashioned murder mystery, where the whodunit is far more noteworthy than grotesque descriptions of the act or the state of the corpse. There were a few unrealistic moments, but that's part of the fun.