As Christopher Fowler’s series of novels about his pair of (very) elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May has progressed, events in them have become increasingly rational, losing the mystical overtones and what was for a while an increasingly improbable set of events when Bryant encountered technology.
Yet the emotional impact of the novels has continued to grow for as regular readers get to know the characters all the better, and spend even more hours reading about them, the poignancy of twists such as the one near the end of The Burning Man is all the greater. Without giving away any spoilers, the better you know the characters, the greater the sadness at the dramatic turn one of their lives takes in this, the twelfth in the Bryant & May series.
The book itself starts with early on a very clever piece of misdirection by Christopher Fowler. As is one of his trademarks, he always plays fair with the reader and when you are hit by a twist later in the book and go back to re-read the early pages you realise the skill with which he both played fair with the reader – nothing the reader is told is strictly speaking false – yet also let the reader mislead themselves by inferring more into the words than was really there. Very smart.
This time the backdrop for the murder mystery is a financial scandal and riots in London, all plausibly told as a slight twist on actual events. As ever with Fowler, as much of the fun is to be had in working out the murderer’s motives as in working out who they are – and there is plenty of entertainment on both fronts not be had, not to mention the many calls on London’s history and architecture for the book’s backdrop and the skilfully woven humour which often verges on slapstick.
A highly enjoyable read.
If you like this, you might also be interested in Full Dark House, the first in the Bryant & May series.
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