Bryant & May and the Burning Man by Christopher Fowler

The Burning ManLondon’s burning…

A banking scandal has proved to be the tipping point and protesters fill the streets of the City. As the protests turn violent and the fires start to burn, a dark shadow takes advantage of the chaos on the streets. A homeless man is burned to death as he sleeps. A banker is encased in tar. With murders that are “a bit Dr Phibes”, who else are you going to call but the Peculiar Crimes Unit?

A city on the verge of collapse? A psychopath targetting apparently random victims? All in a days work, usually. But things are not what they were. Arthur Bryant, the octogenarian maverick that the team orbits around is hiding a devastating secret. Things are coming to an end – and not all endings are happy ones…

I’m really not sure what to say about this one. I finished it last night and I’m still thinking about it. Let’s go for some facts first and then try to get the emotional bit out of the way in a couple of paragraphs’ time.

This is the twelfth in the Bryant and May series. If you haven’t encountered them before, then you are certainly missing out. Christopher Fowler is such a complete writer, marrying plot with character seamlessly and never choosing the easy way out with character arcs. Add in the huge background colour of the City and Arthur Bryant’s tales of its past (and of a variety of other topics as well) and you get such a reading experience. It’s like the bastard lovechild of Poirot, your favourite soap opera and QI. In a good way. Oh, and it’s also laugh-out-loud funny in places. Which makes certain parts all the more powerful – Chapter 35, for example, brought me to tears. And that’s only halfway through…

And I don’t want to say any more about the plot. Because a reader should go into this book not knowing what to expect. Yes, there’s a clever mystery at the heart of it, so my usual readers will enjoy it for that, but this is so much more. New readers should try it because it’s simply the best of an outstanding series (and does not spoil what has gone before, so you can go back and savour the earlier books afterwards). Old readers… brace yourself because this is, apparently, the end. A perfect ending, as ongoing plots are brought to their conclusion seemlessly. And when you finish the book, if you’re not still thinking about the final chapter the next day, then there’s something wrong with you.

This is an outstanding novel, the best thing that I’ve read in ages (and that’s up against some stiff competition). Highly Recommended – and an essential read for fans of the series. But don’t forget the tissues…

Many thanks to Random House for providing me with this review copy via NetGalley. It’s out to buy next month.

This review is part of my attempt at Readathon UK for the school where I work – ten books between 6th Feb and 5th March. If you want to make a donation to the children’s charities that they support, then please visit their Just Giving page.

More Bryant & May Reviews:


  1. Last year I was sure I would finally get into this series … but this year it will be different! Sounds great, really need to get my skates on – thanks chum. and thanks for the link for the Just Giving page – very worthy indeed.


  2. I have read one Bryant and May: The Memory Of Blood. I enjoyed reading it. I found it not only very suspenseful but also very humorous. I was impressed by the writing style. However, I was disappointed with the ending and the solution.
    I have decided to try out The Burning Man after it is released.


  3. Great series – didn’t know there was a new book coming up! Bit worried about the need for tissues… Ten Second Staircase, Off the Rails and Memory of Blood have been my favourites and I have read the lot..


  4. Got really excited until I read your penultimate paragraph, I’ve been waiting for this to come out for a while and I thought that the moment had come. Never mind I’ll just have to wait another month. As to the ending (of the series) I guess that we will have to hope for a Reichenbach Falls moment. Mind you I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryant were capable of solving a crime via a séance should the need arise.


  5. I have started reading the book. Out of curiosity, I read Chapter 35 first to find out what brought you to tears ! Well, it is really sad.


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