It’s another new beginning for the Peculiar Crimes Unit, led by the eccentric (and that’s putting it mildly) Arthur Bryant and John May, as they are now part of the City of London Police. Which means a new boss watching their every move – and, even worse, wants to bring in some up to date procedures, perish the thought.
But they’ve got more than enough on their plates with a newly-dead body rising from its grave – and when the young witness to the event is killed in a hit-and-run, it seems that something macabre is going on. As the legend of the Bleeding Heart seems to follow them everywhere, and Bryant finds himself up against the sinister Mr Merry and one of his darkest fears…
Oh, and someone has stolen the ravens from the Tower of London…
Forgive the relative brevity of the review – and the time in between reviews at the moment – as I’m in the slow process of moving house and all of the rigmarole that goes with it.
If you haven’t encountered Bryant and May yet, this is a good jumping on point. Not as good as going back to the beginning and jumping on there, of course, but if you’re in a rush to get to know them and their team, then this is a new start of sorts. We’ve lost a supporting character from the higher echelons but have gained a new one – who may or may not be sympathetic to Arthur Bryant’s arcane ways.
As ever from Christopher Fowler, the book is packed full of ideas and stories. More legends of London’s past, from the Tower to grave robbers and resurrectionists and the Bleeding Heart Yard, are there to bring the story to life along with one of my favourite fictional sleuths. Yes, Bryant isn’t the most direct detective you’ll ever meet (and as ever, some of his intuitions only really serve, at the end of the day, to entertain the reader rather than to further the investigation, but as you’re the reader, there’s no problem with that at all. There is a great plot strand that humanises Arthur as he confronts his claustrophobia which adds another layer to him.
Meanwhile, we spend the rest of the time with a cast of characters that the regular reader will be very familiar with and yet are so vividly drawn, a new reader will warm to them quickly as well. My only caveat – it seems that John May seems to have joined the rest of the cast, rather than being joint lead. As the balance to Bryant’s eccentricities, it must be harder to make May stand out, but it might be nice if he could get a little more of the limelight next time.
As for the mysteries, the two sort-of impossible crimes – the walking corpse and the vanishing ravens – have beautifully simple solutions, the ravens in particular – and the central mystery plot is convoluted but has a similarly sensible solution, which is necessary amongst some of the macabre dressing.
OK, that wasn’t brief at all – never mind…
This review copy was provided to me by the publishers – the book is currently out in hardback and as an ebook and will be out in paperback… soon, I guess. And it’s Highly Recommended.