Today I am excited to bring to you a guest post from Christopher Fowler, the creator of two of world's most eccentric detectives - Arthur Bryant and John May. Plus I'll let you know what I think of London's Glory!
In every detective’s life there are cases that can’t be discussed, and throughout the Bryant & May novels there have been mentions of some of these such as the Deptford Demon or the Little Italy Whelk Smuggling Scandal.
Now Arthur Bryant has decided to open the files on eleven of these previously unseen investigations that required the collective genius and unique modus operandi of Arthur Bryant and John May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit - investigations that range from different times (London during the Great Smog) and a variety of places: a circus freak show, on board a London Tour Bus and even a yacht off the coast of Turkey.
And in addition to these eleven classic cases, readers are also given a privileged look inside the Peculiar Crimes Unit (literally, with a cut away drawing of their offices), a guide to the characters of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, and access to the contents of Arthur Bryant’s highly individual library.
‘The legend of Jack the Ripper has been kept alive all these years. There are nearly four thousand books on the subject. The Ripper breathes and walks almost as if he was still flesh and blood, when he should have been allowed to die long, long ago. His victims were desperate, poor women who could not earn enough to find a bed for the night or a hot meal. Their skin was grey and saggy from a diet of potatoes. They tramped the streets for twenty hours a day, in rain and snow and fog. They were beaten up and treated cruelly for doing nothing more than trying to survive in a mean world that didn’t care if they lived or died. Once they were like you, lad, young and full of hope for the world, but unlike you they had nothing beyond a few ragged clothes and their failing bodies.
And instead of treating them with kindness and respect, men bullied them and stole away their only precious possession, their innocence, and after they were dead the men – and women - still exploited them, displaying photographs of their ruined lives, writing about the Ripper as if he was intelligent, a surgeon, a member of royalty, an artist, as if he was more worthy of attention than his victims. We raise him up in films and books and TV shows, almost as if he was something to admire. But he wasn’t, Augustine. He was a just another cruel, evil bully only worthy of our revulsion and disgust, because he exploited the weak. And this is true of all terrible crimes; it’s the victims who must be respected and honoured, not the murderers, and that is why I do my job, and will continue to do it until the day I die.’
Having said that, Arthur Bryant would probably have gone off on a tangent, investigating the Prince of Wales and Walter Sickert, but I think the duo would have had more luck with the Ratcliffe Highway Murders, which resulted in the creation of the first police force. Bryant would have understood the Krays because he shares their east end background and knew poverty as a child. The duo would also have sided with Ruth Ellis and found a way to get her off the hook instead of making her the last woman in England to hang.
I will own up straight away, short stories sometimes fail miserably for me.
The problem I have is that you can have two good stories out of a book of twenty. A lot of wasted reading time that you can't get back, thankfully those charming figureheads of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, Detectives Bryant and May manage to fill an entire book with enjoyable stories.
I only read my first Bryant and May book this year but I fell very quickly for these two gents, their unique approach to policing is well....unique!
The collection covers stories from their years in the force and I don't mean recent years either! The stories have a great atmosphere around them, the snow and the fog that comes in to a lot of the stories really does make London the perfect setting for criminals, both deliberate and plain stupid to commit their crimes.
The best thing about Bryant and May's stories is that the outcome is not obvious, one especially for me which involved a woman being found dead in the snow with a cut throat but no footsteps nearby belonging to the killer, well the outcome of that was so clever.
Our gent's have proved that short stories can make for a cracking read and even though they are getting on in years, Bryant and May are sharp as tacks and a delight to read about.
I am looking forward to their next case!
Thank you to Doubleday for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review