Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bryant & May: Strange Tide by Christopher Fowler

First Sentence:  Nothing gave Arthur Bryant greater satisfaction than making his first blotch on a fresh white page.
The body of a woman chained to a stone and left to drown by the Thames isn’t that unusual a crime.  But finding only one set of footprints which lead one direction does make it more unusual.  As more bodies are found, and Arthur Bryant’s mind becomes less stable leaving the team floundering, could this be the end of the Peculiar Crimes Unit? 
Not every contemporary mystery opens with Celtic Queen Boddica sitting on a wall eating a candy bar.  But then, this is Christopher Fowler who has taught readers to expect the unexpected.  His use of a staff memo to the PUC is a wonderful way to introduce readers to both the characters and their functions.
Switching gears to two men trying to escape Libya for England is a perfect example of Fowler’s ability to change from humor to the horror often experienced by refugees.  It is both terrible and compelling—“Many of the passengers had already been made frail by hunger and thirst, and the sea began to swallow them.  They slipped silently beneath the surface like players forfeiting a game.”  We are also given a lesson in how quickly and easily identity theft can take place. 
The history lessons one receives are fascinating and add to the story’s strong sense of place.  There are excellent observations on the wastefulness of Westerners where time and money are concerned.  But it’s the detailed information of London and the Thames that add to the delightful experience of the reader.
Fowler’s voice is such a delight to read—“Longbright and May seated themselves in the cavernous living room opposite Cooper, keeping a distant cordiality, a double act they had finessed over the years until it reached the level of a top-notch production of Waiting for Godot.”  He also really knows how to construct a plot.  One can never predict where he is going to take one next.
Counting this, over the past three books, Bryant’s physical and mental health have been a major plot point—“Bryant released himself back into the vibrancy of the city with relief, for he had come to understand that in the midst of winter there was within him an invincible summer.”  The realization of its cause is brilliant and a bit embarrassing once one realizes the clues have been there all along.
The book is not all cerebral, however.  It is filled with excellent plot twists, a very exciting chase scene, and lots of suspects of various crimes.
Bryant and May: Strange Tide” does not disappoint.  It has an excellent building of danger and suspense, a wonderful ending, and some of the best characters written today.

BRYANT and MAY: STRANGE TIDE (Pol Proc-Bryant/May-London-Contemp) – Ex
      Fowler, Christopher – 13th in series
      Bantum – Dec 2016

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