Genre: Crime, Detective Fiction
For fans of: Lee Child, Peter James, Dan Brown
In a city that was rapidly forgetting the past he was an inconvenient reminder of all that had gone before.
Described as “contemporary crime fiction’s answer to Holmes and Watson or Mulder and Scully” and the 12th installment of Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May detective series, I couldn’t help getting my hands on a copy of The Burning Man ahead of the book’s release on the 26th March. Set against the backdrop of the London riots, elderly but infamous crime solving duo Arthur Bryant & John May from London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit are faced with a brand new challenge.
As disillusioned rioters give way to their anger at Britain’s banking system, a homeless man endures a fiery death on the steps of one of the principal banks and the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called into action to discover the vindictive culprit before he takes his next victim. Using their network of questionable contacts, their experience from past cases and their famous gut instinct, the detective duo have to battle against politics and Bryant’s own personal struggles before it’s too late.
[…] in truth modern British police departments are rather like insurance offices.
From a few chapters into The Burning Man it was immediately clear that what makes this book work is the relationship between its two principle characters, Arthur Bryant and John May. The latter’s charming sophistication and persuasive manner is a necessary counterpoint to his partner’s gruff idiosyncrasies, persuading Unit Chief Raymond Land to put up with their unorthodox method of detecting. In this book it’s particularly heart-warming to see the duo’s camaraderie, with May often shielding Bryant from the politics and bureaucracy running rife inside the City of London’s police unit.
“I enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey.” Bryant quailed at the thought.
“That’s not really reading is it? More like staring at an assortment of words.”
Fowler’s writing style is lively and full of humour, with the team at the PCU proving to be a particularly witty bunch. Bryant’s dry, sardonic dialogue and his penchant for placing his team members in socially compromising positions is especially enjoyable to read. One of my favourite scenes is when the elderly detectives pay a visit to a contact –Steppe – who resides in a mental health institution where he reluctantly feigns stupidity to avoid the unwanted attentions of the nurses.
Whilst Bryant & May are constantly treading the line between past and present, The Burning Man is definitely a novel for the modern age. The PCU team’s plans are constantly scuppered thanks to the speed at which events escalate under the influence of social media. I think one of the characters in the book even remarks that they’re in the middle of a “war of information”, which couldn’t be more true as events take a drastic turn under the watchful eye of the media (and rioters’ smartphones). From start to end Fowler creates a tension that’ll make the book impossible to put down. The gruesome, ritualistic nature of the murders leaves you impatient to find out the killer’s motive, with one particularly gripping chase scene late in the book proving especially engrossing to read.
Completely witty and centred around a pair that you can’t help but like, The Burning Man is essential reading for any crime fan. Featuring fast-paced action and eccentric motives, Fowler’s detective team are constantly bridging the gap between London’s legendary crime history and contemporary events. If you’re a fan of TV series like Whitechapel, Ripper Street or New Tricks, then this is the perfect book for you! Just know that once you’ve read one Bryant & May adventure you won’t be able to stop…
If the above review has left you wanting more Bryant & May, author Christopher Fowler will be stopping here on his blog tour on the 9th April. Watch this space!
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me to review by Transworld Books. All opinions expressed here are my own.