Earlier this year, Arthur Bryant and John May rode off into the sunset – well, actually, rode off into the fog – in Bryant and May and the Burning Man, a hugely enjoyable book which gave our heroes a poignant send-off. Possibly one of the finest farewells that I’ve ever read.
Well, they’re back. Early next year, they’re back properly in Bryant and May – Strange Tide but in the meantime, Christopher Fowler has collected his short stories of the heroic pair and their entourage, the Peculiar Crimes Unit. So prepare for some cases from the past and the present, cases taking them to a circus freak show, a London bus and, believe or not, all the way to Turkey…
It’s ridiculously hard to review short stories with a spoiler free policy in place, as by their nature, I can’t say much about them. But fans of Bryant & May won’t be disappointed. The sleuths take centre stage in the stories – slightly to the detriment of the fans of the supporting cast, but there’s only so much story you can fit in – and Fowler takes advantage of the format to vary his writing style a little. One tale is from DS Janice Longbright’s point of view, another gives full focus to May for most of the story, and on top of that, the other tales are deliberately written in a variety of styles, as explained by the author in some fascinating forewords. The main constant in the tales though is that Arthur Bryant is the brains of the operation. I’ve mentioned this before in reviews – and Christopher Fowler himself has mentioned his intention to give John May more of a focus – but here, even in John’s own story, Arthur is the one to turn up to spell things out. But with our heroes returning in full novels, and given the ending of the Burning Man, I imagine that John’s going to have to move into the spotlight a little more.
But back to this one and the one part of the book that I must praise (apart from the top quality short stories of course) is the introduction from the author, detailing his intentions in his crime writing. He had me at the idea of moving away from the modern crime trope of starting a novel with another dead girl – an idea that I grew tired of a long time ago – and the intention to bring some fun back to the mystery genre. Well, he’s certainly done that in the preceding twelve novels and in this collection of tales.
Any fans of the series need to read this book. Anyone who hasn’t met the octogenarian sleuths ought to give it a try too. A seriously fun collection, a perfect Christmas present for the fan of the mystery novel. Highly Recommended.