Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Bryant & May: The Burning Man By Christopher Fowler

The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler
Series: Bryant & May #12

Published by DoubleDay (March 26th 2015)
Pages: 416 
Format: Hardcover 
Source: Publisher (NetGalley)

Rating: 3.5

London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.
But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.
Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.
At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives – but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.
‘I always said we’d go out with a hell of a bang,’ warns Bryant.

My Thoughts:
I have to say that I was a little unsure about requesting The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler to read this title seeing as it looked like being the latest in a long running series.  I also hate to read any series out of sequence. However the cover was very appealing and the synopsis indicated that it would be an amusing, interesting read, and something very different from my usual crime reads. The author on his website assures readers that the series can be read in any order or as a stand alone. In view of this I requested a copy.

Mr Fowler did not fib at all, there was enough information on each character that I didn't feel disadvantaged by not reading previous books in the series.

The opening chapter introduces the cast of characters by means of a 'staff roster'.  Also included is an excerpt from a speech by Mr Arthur Bryant given to the City of London Police Crime Directorate, and a highly amusing memo from the long suffering PCU Chief, Raymond Land.

From the outset I knew I was going to enjoy reading, The Burning Man, and at times it had me laughing out loud in public places.  I'll give an example of the humour; "...no more pawning items from the Evidence Room until payday..." and "...the entrance halls' visual-recognition system has been removed after Mr Bryant proved it could be cheated by the addition of a hat...".

The Burning Man was an enjoyable, highly amusing read about a team of misfits working in the Peculiar Crime Unit (PCU).  At the centre of which are two main character's Bryant & May, a totally mismatched elderly police duo.  Bryant is somewhat untidy and dishevelled, both in appearance and manner.  May is his polar opposite, immaculate in appearance and highly organised. The setting is present day London during the Guy Fawkes' celebrations, alongside this angry protests are raging over a banking scandal. During the ensuing riots a homeless man is set alight and burns to death while sleeping in a doorway.

The PCU is brought in to investigate what should be a simple case of accidental death and hope to tie things up quickly.  A subsequent death throws new light on the case and the PCU find themselves investigating a double murder.

Both characters appear completely out of step with modern policing but they still manage to get results using old fashioned policing practices, incorporating unorthodox methods of investigation in order to solve crimes.

A highly entertaining and humorous crime thriller accompanied by Bryant's interesting historical facts and anecdotes about London.  I definitely recommend it to newcomers and those already familiar with the world of Bryant & May.

Unfortunately in this latest story the octogenarian detective seems to be losing his memory causing him to be confused and forgetful. If this is an indication that this may be the last we are to hear of the duo I can console myself that I have the previous instalments to catch up with.

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