Penguin Random House
5 November 2015
The first-ever collection of Bryant & May stories not only sheds light on eleven classic cases but also contains everything you need to know about the two octogenarian detectives and the Peculiar Crimes Unit.
In every detective’s life there are cases that can’t be discussed, and throughout the Bryant & May novels there have been mentions of some of these such as the Deptford Demon or the Little Italy Whelk Smuggling Scandal.
Now Arthur Bryant has decided to open the files on eleven of these previously unseen investigations that required the collective genius and unique modus operandi of Arthur Bryant and John May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit - investigations that range from different times (London during the Great Smog) and a variety of places: a circus freak show, on board a London Tour Bus and even a yacht off the coast of Turkey.
And in addition to these eleven classic cases, readers are also given a privileged look inside the Peculiar Crimes Unit (literally, with a cut away drawing of their offices), a guide to the characters of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, and access to the contents of Arthur Bryant’s highly individual library.
I'm rather a latecomer to the world of Arthur Bryant & John May. So, to have a compendium of short stories in one volume and for that volume to have a perfect introduction, including an illustrated guide to the Old Peculiar Unit and a fascinating Dramatis Personae, is a really good way to begin reading this very popular crime series. There are eleven short stories to enjoy, all are roughly twenty or so pages long, some a little shorter, but always complete in themselves. And, as always, the stories are the perfect showcase for Bryant &May’s own brand of peculiar eccentricity.
I’m not a huge reader of short stories but when I do read them, I want them to be like these, short, succinct, wide-ranging, with a fine eye for detail, and above all entertaining. I enjoyed dipping into the book at whim, and being allowed moments of complete enjoyment as I traversed the streets of London in the company of two men, who, if I’m being perfectly honest, were I to meet them in real life, I would probably cross the street to avoid. However, be that as it may, there is no doubt that Bryant & May exude a certain fascinating charm. Old school gentlemen detectives in a world which has to them, seemingly, gone completely mad. I especially liked Bryant’s wry observation in Bryant & May and the Secret Santa on Strictly Come Dancing’s use of two verbs and an adverb in its, to Bryant , anyway, offending title. It must be said, though, that the book is not without some quite dark moments, there are stories like Bryant & May and The Seven Points which have a distinctly sinister edginess.
There’s no doubt that Bryant & May make me smile, they’re incredibly engaging and in the hands of this hack writer employed by Mr Bryant’s publishers – the author’s words – not mine, I am sure they will continue to enthral readers for some time to come.
Best enjoyed with a nice glass of Merlot and maybe a few ginger biscuits.
Christopher Fowler is a Londoner born (in Greenwich) and bred. For many years he jointly owned and ran one of the UK’s top film marketing companies.
He is the author of many novels and short story collections, from the urban unease of cult fictions such as Roofworld and Spanky, the horror-pastiche of Hell Train to the much-praised and award-winning Bryant and May series of detective novels - and his two critically acclaimed autobiographies, Paperboy and Film Freak.
He lives in King’s Cross.