The trials and tribulations of the Olympic hopefuls are upon us and I find that London is calling me. Unfortunately, I have an Olympic-sized yard project I’m working on so my London visit must be virtual one. It would be great if they gave out medals for moving rocks and shoveling sand; I’d be shooting for gold.
Many of the books I’ve read lately have been set in London, the most recent being Christopher Fowler’s Peculiar Crimes Unit series with Bryant and May as the star detectives. One has to suspend a little reality when reading this series because the elderly team of Arthur Bryant and John May have been solving crimes in their own wonky way since WW II.
No matter, they make you want to believe.
Arthur is, as Fowler puts it, “as rumpled as a mariner’s map” and he could easily be considered insane by most. Among his informants, there are various esoteric individuals he consults as well as those with years of knowledge from the research annals of the British Museum. Arthur himself taps into the full study of history and the occult with his overwhelming collection of books, papers and just plain junk; then there are all his weird little oddities and experiments kept both in his home and office to help him solve crimes from his own uniquely different and eccentric perspective.
John, his partner, is a well dressed ladies man who is the relatively normal face of the team. He generally follows the more usual lines of police detecting and works well, or should I say better, with others. He also keeps Arthur somewhat in check. Of course, how normal can he be when he’s been working with Arthur for his entire career?
Along with the various members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, and in spite of their current digs in an aging dilapidated warehouse with a shadowy past and within which one finds many cryptic items, the team manages to have a better closed case ratio on a smaller budget than the more normal policing teams. Which is a good thing since there are those who would shut down this particular unit; so far they've been unsuccessful.
Abnormal crimes are what this team solves. In Bryant and May and The Memory of Blood, number nine in the series, it appears that a frightening antique Punch puppet (of Punch and Judy fame) has managed to somehow kill a baby and throw it out a window. All done in a room locked from the inside and without any normal residue crime scene evidence that a living person did this. How can this be?
But Bryant and May are on the case and all will be revealed...at the stroke of midnight...in a London dungeon.
Those who enjoy London with its deep historical, and sometimes mysterious, roots will enjoy suspending their “truth” meter for a while. For even if there really is no Leicester Square vampire and most unexplainable crimes have more mundane solutions behind the smoke and mirrors, it is a fun visit. So, drop a coin into Madame Blavatsky's fortune telling machine, sip your cup of tea and enjoy the peculiar world of Bryant and May, along with your fortune.
Me, I’m just hoping to finish my Olympic-sized project by month’s end to be ready for the release of the next book, Bryant & May and the Invisible Code, in early August. Then I'll award myself a gold medal, or at least a gold star, by reading and relaxing on my new patio with a nice glass of something.
Perhaps I'll ask what Madame Blavatsky sees in my future. A real visit to London would be nice...