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Bryant & May set London alight in the newest PCU mystery

Bryant & May and The Burning Man: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery

by Christopher Fowler

Random House

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date: December 15, 2015


No case is too curious for Arthur Bryant and John May, London’s most ingenious detectives. But with their beloved city engulfed in turmoil, they’ll have to work fast to hold a sinister killer’s feet to the fire. In the week before Guy Fawkes Night, London’s peaceful streets break out in sudden unrest. Enraged by a scandal involving a corrupt financier accused of insider trading, demonstrators are rioting outside the Findersbury Private Bank, chanting, marching, and growing violent. But when someone hurls a Molotov cocktail at the bank’s front door, killing a homeless man on its steps, Bryant, May, and the rest of the Peculiar Crimes Unit team are called in. Is this an act of protest gone terribly wrong? Or a devious, premeditated murder? Their investigation heats up when a second victim is reported dead in similar fiery circumstances. May discovers the latest victim has ties to the troubled bank, and Bryant refuses to believe this is mere coincidence. As the riots grow more intense and the body count climbs, Bryant and May hunt for a killer who’s adopting incendiary methods of execution, on a snaking trail of clues with roots in London’s history of rebellion, anarchy, and harsh justice. Now, they’ll have to throw themselves in the line of fire before the entire investigation goes up in smoke. Suspenseful, smart, and wickedly funny, Bryant & May and the Burning Man is a brilliantly crafted mystery from the beloved Christopher Fowler.


The first two words that come to mind after reading Bryant & May and the Burning Man are salient and clever. Christopher Fowler is a gifted writer, able to creatively phrase his ideas. Arthur Bryant is an archetypal Fool, immensely perceptive, understanding the depths of human nature, but at the same time he is ungrounded, easily confused by the run-of-the-mill. There is a fine line between genius and madness, and Arthur Bryant skirts the edge with aplomb. While the past is more real to him than the present, only he, John May, and the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are capable of stopping a killer intent on fomenting rebellion.

At the start of Bryant & May and the Burning Man, scandal at the Findersbury Private Bank has sent London into a state of unrest. Demonstrators are calling for prosecution of corrupt banking officials. Amidst the turmoil, a homeless man is burned to death, the first of a serious of ever more gruesome murders. With each death, the riots grow more intense and confrontations escalate. With the rapid approach of Guy Fawkes night, a traditional time of rebellion, Bryant and May have only a limited time to stop a killer before London goes up in flames.

Fowler keeps the reader in suspense throughout, allowing only rare glimpses into the killer’s psyche. The PCU faces many challenges, even from within the police administration. While the novel is serious, there is a humorous aspect. Despite his growing mental issues, Bryant keeps his sense of humor. It is difficult to predict what he will say next, only that it is often relevant in a tangential way. He not only knows his own value, he also sees it in others who would be otherwise overlooked because of instability or mental illness.

Bryant & May and the Burning Man is an astounding police procedural that steps outside of the norm. As much as it tells a story, it also raises questions and encourages the reader to think for themselves. Arthur Bryant is one of the most memorable literary figures I have encountered. I highly recommend Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May and the Burning Man.


Bryant & May and the Burning Man is available for preorder and will be released December 15, 2015.

I received a copy of Bryant & May and the Burning Man from the publisher and in exchange for an honest review.


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