Bryant and May: London’s Glory by Christopher Fowler (Transworld)

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 Bryant and May series has turned into one of the most reliable crime reads for me and I’ll always check out a new release whenever I can so it was great to see that Fowler had put out an anthology containing several short stories, with the number count coming to eleven in total.

Serving as a great introduction to the characters for readers who can find the backlog of books a bit daunting to catch up on London’s Glory is an effective read that showcases why these characters are so great, containing some nice short stories that really work. There’s a real nice element of humour when it comes with these books and it helps the stories feel all the more engaging because of it.

The stories are each briefly introduced by Fowler who gives us a background on how they came to be, and then we’re thrust into the various cases of Arthur Bryant and John May’s Career. The author has chosen to explore what they would have done in different time periods as well such as London during the Great Smog, but also cases that include a circus freak show and a tour bus are mentioned as well as Fowler puts the city to good use in some well balanced and nicely paced short stories that make for an engaging read, with plots that are never too easy to figure out and you’ll probably end up discovering what happens at the same time the characters do, which is something that can always throw me off a thriller normally.

It took me a while to get through London’s Glory but that is in no way the anthology’s fault, I prefer to have breaks between the short stories rather than read them all at once because if read together sometimes they can be jarring especially when they may be tonally different. Thankfully though in this case they weren’t, and it allowed for a smoother read.

One of the strongest stories or me was the Tour Bus short, which really worked for me, with it being one of the more humorous shorts here. It was great seeing Arthur Bryant not getting along particularly well with the other occupants of the bus, and how the case was handled proved to be a refreshing experience as tourism is something that’s rarely tackled in crime fiction especially in London, at least from what I’ve read of the genre.

There are no weak stories here and chances are you’ll enjoy the majority of them even if you haven’t read a single book of the Bryant and May series. It’s a good place to start and gives you a nice introduction to their work, and will provide the perfect breather for the returning fans who want to read something different to a full length novel.

VERDICT: 8/10

 

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