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Bryant & May on the Loose: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery Paperback – September 14, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fowler's unique blend of the comic and the grotesque is on full display in his excellent seventh Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery (after 2008's The Victoria Vanishes). With the special police unit shut down, Arthur Bryant is feeling withdrawn and depressed while his partner, John May, is considering PI work. When a former team member stumbles on a beheaded corpse in the heart of London's King's Cross neighborhood, May artfully uses the discovery to gain the PCU another lease on life. He persuades the higherups that unsolved gang crimes in the area could threaten the economic benefit anticipated from the 2012 Olympics. Given one week to solve the case, without any official sanction or access to police resources, May pulls Bryant out of his doldrums and reassembles the unit. To May's dismay, his colleague is more interested in reports that a man wearing a stag's head has been seen in the area. The pacing, prose, planting of clues and characterizations are all top-notch. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The efforts of various officials in the London police have finally succeeded in breaking up the Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU). While most of the team have started remaking their lives, brilliant, eccentric Arthur Bryant has become a morose recluse. His old friend John May is definitely concerned. Then along comes a case that May thinks might pique Arthur’s interest and put the unit back in business: a headless corpse is found stuffed in an old freezer. Strangely, it’s not the unfortunate dead guy that calls to the elderly Bryant. He’s more interested in the oddly dressed man causing havoc around a King’s Cross renovation project. With the group’s future at stake, which case will win out? With a liberal dose of regional history and some surprising humor, this ensemble crime story has lots to offer—not the least of which are a couple of great, unexpected twists that not only change the makeup of the PCU but also lead its members straight into adventures to come. --Stephanie Zvirin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Peculiar Crimes Unit (Book 7)
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553386514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553386516
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Fowler was born in Greenwich, London. He is the multi award-winning author of over thirty novels and thirteen short story collections, and the author of the Bryant & May mystery novels. His first bestseller was 'Roofworld'. Subsequent novels include 'Spanky', 'Disturbia', 'Psychoville' and 'Calabash'. His books have been optioned by Guillermo Del Toro ('Spanky') and Jude Law ('Psychoville').

He spent many years working in film. His memoir of growing up without books, entitled 'Paperboy', was highly acclaimed, and was followed by a sequel in April 2013, 'Film Freak'. After this came his dark comedy-thrillers 'Hell Train' and 'Plastic', the haunted house thriller 'Nyctophobia' and his homage to JG Ballard, 'The Sand Men', in 2015. This year he was the recipient of the Crime Writers' Association Dagger In The Library Award.

He has written comedy and drama for BBC radio, including Sherlock Holmes stories and Radio One's first broadcast drama in 2005. He has a weekly column in the UK's national newspaper The Independent on Sunday. His graphic novel for DC Comics was the critically acclaimed 'Menz Insana'. His short story 'The Master Builder' became a feature film entitled 'Through The Eyes Of A Killer', starring Tippi Hedren and Marg Helgenberger. He was the winner of the Edge Hill prize 2008 for 'Old Devil Moon', and the Last Laugh prize 2009 for 'The Victoria Vanishes', and the author of the play 'Celebrity'. He also wrote the 'War Of The Worlds' videogame for Paramount with Sir Patrick Stewart.

Christopher has achieved several pathetic schoolboy fantasies, releasing a terrible Christmas pop single, becoming a male model, writing a stage show, starring as a villain in a Batman graphic novel, running a nightclub, appearing in the Pan Books of Horror, and standing in for James Bond.

His short stories have appeared in Best British Mysteries, The Time Out Book Of London Short Stories, Dark Terrors, London Noir, Inferno, Neon Lit, Cinema Macabre, the Mammoth Book of Horror and many others. After living in the USA and France he is now married and lives in King's Cross, London and Barcelona, Spain.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In Christopher Fowler's "Bryant and May on the Loose," the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are unemployed, after being forced to vacate their offices at Mornington Crescent in London. The PCU was designed to handle "specialized cases and crimes (mostly homicides) which could be considered a risk to public order and confidence if left unresolved." However, the "anti-establishment and subversive behavior" of its detectives repeatedly landed the PCU in hot water with the Home Office, and it was only a matter of time before angry higher-ups disbanded the unit.

Meanwhile, the PCU's most senior detectives, Arthur Bryant and John May, are handling their new status very differently. John, who remains dignified and composed, is doing his best to comfort his disconsolate granddaughter, April, who loved working in the PCU. On the other hand, Bryant spends endless hours wallowing in self-pity and irritating his beleaguered housekeeper, Alma. Arthur stubbornly refuses to answer the telephone or leave his house; every day, he looks more aged and shriveled, like "a frightened monk."

Fowler starts out promisingly, with a delightfully droll hand-written note left for the successors to the PCU. The new tenants are warned about such things as "the funny smell in the crisper" of the refrigerator: "It's been like that ever since Mr. Bryant left a foot in it." There is no question that the quirky PCU (and especially the eccentric Arthur Bryant) do not fit into London's idea of modern policing. Officials in the Home Office care more about statistics, image, and conformity to standard codes of conduct than they do about results. Unfortunately, with no equipment, money, status, or technical backup, it seems that the PCU is gone for good.... Or is it?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Arthur Bryant and John May are the senior detectives of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Actually, make that the former Peculiar Crimes Unit. The PCU (of which Bryant and May have been members since World War II) has been disbanded --- at least in the de facto sense --- as of the beginning of BRYANT & MAY ON THE LOOSE. Its cases, some of which are documented within the pages of the six volumes that precede this one (and many others that are only alluded to), are the most eccentric that the city of London has ever experienced, equally grounded more often than not in the distant past and the immediate present. The success of the PCU in solving them has become something of an embarrassment to the London police as well.

Then there's the unique oil and water chemistry of the PCU's senior detectives. Bryant is unable to remember where his shoes are, yet he can recall the most arcane fact regarding the Roman occupation of Britain, who fought in what war and where, and all the legends that have arisen in their wake. May is more thoroughly grounded in traditional police work. There is no room for either of them in the 21st century. Bryant is more or less put to pasture while the rest of the team finds itself cashiered out as well and begins looking for different work in other fields.

So it is that BRYANT & MAY ON THE LOOSE becomes a perfect jump-on point for those unfamiliar with this excellent series of novels by Christopher Fowler, which combine historical esoteria, sharp characterization and droll humor sprinkled seemingly at a frequency of one chip per paragraph and baked into a puzzling, intriguing mystery. The mystery in this case is the discovery of a headless corpse in the freezer of an abandoned shoppe.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on November 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
With the dissolution of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, the eleven living members (to include the cat) feels good about what they accomplished and assume their one deceased member looks down on them fondly. However each will miss this peculiar team as the camaraderie between the misfits assigned here was stratospheric as was their success rate. Senior Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May react differently to the end of their police careers. Whereas the depressed former hides under the covers with his books as companions the latter considers going private.

However, all changes when a half man-half stag apparently abducts women followed by the finding of a severed head corpse found in King's Cross. May eloquently points out to the Home Office bureaucrats that if the crimes are left unsolved it could paint a nasty picture of London just before the 2012 Olympics come to the city. Reluctantly the brass authorizes the PCU to work on the severed head case for a week, but with conditions. They have no access to the "real" police, no official authorization, no computers, and no running water toilet in the rental dump provided to the PCU team. May reassembles the team, but a grateful Bryant focuses on the headed stag-man rather than the homicide.

The seventh PCU zany police procedural is the usual insane mix of humor with the criminal absurd in what is always a super read. May is his usual optimistic self while Bryan remains the pessimist. However what makes their case so much fun is Christopher Fowler slices the top off of the glass so it is full. Fans will relish the return in the aptly titled BRYANT & MAY ON THE LOOSE; as the bureaucrats and politicians have as much to fear from this duet as the felons.

Harriet Klausner
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