Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Victoria Vanishes

I’ve never met Christopher Fowler in person, although we share an agent, and whilst I’ve read and enjoyed his short fiction in the past, I’ve been slow in catching up with his successful series about Bryant and May, from the Peculiar Crimes Unit. I’ve just finished the sixth book in that series, The Victoria Vanishes, and I must say I found it immensely enjoyable – one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time.

This is a book packed with good things. For instance, there is a very nice ‘impossible’ puzzle, which features almost incidentally in the story-line. How is it that Arthur Bryant, after a few drinks, should have seen a woman coming out of a pub that no longer exists?

The main plot concerns a series of killings of middle-aged women in London’s public houses. The mystery is splendidly contrived, and although the solution is a little far-fetched, that matters not. The twists and turns make the hunt for the culprit a very satisfactory one.

But above all, what I liked about the book was the quality of the writing, and in particular its humour, which was very much on my wavelength. The style blends nostalgia with a sharply contemporary eye on the nature of modern society. And there are lots of wonderful lines. As well as a cat called Crippen. What more could anyone want?

One thing is for sure. I shall be reading more Bryant and May books.


Kerrie said...

I listened to this just recently Martin - and it was great - what a pity I haven't read any before. I had been a bit put off by the connotations of Bryant & May (matches, Redheads etc) but now I need to back track.
My review

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great review! I'm requesting this one from my library. Thanks.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Philip said...

"What more could anyone want?" Indeed. I've read them all with huge pleasure and now await Bryant and May on the Loose. Just one thing re The Victoria Vanishes: it would hardly have been possible, given that he's a recurring character, but it would have been an awfully nice touch if in this one book the cat had been named Crispin. Methinks you will know to what I'm alluding in saying that.

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks for the review, Martin - I'd heard of the Bryant and May series and now *must* try it!

Martin Edwards said...

Nice review, Kerrie!

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Philip, yes, and I'm glad you liked the book too.

Martin Edwards said...

Perhaps I ought to add that Philip is referring, I reckon, to Edmund Crispin's classic book The Moving Toyshop.

seana said...

I have had the feeling that these books are fantastic ever since they appeared here, and yet I still haven't read them! Must remedy that as soon as possible.

Minnie said...

Thanks for the interesting critique. Must admit to having avoided these due to the impossibly 'twee' (IMHO) monickers and thematic framework. And Crippen the cat proved a nudge-nudge-wink-wink reference too far, I fear - tend to be put off by that combination of impossibly smug caricature with grisly nastiness.
Might well have another look now.