Monday, January 12, 2015

Another peculiar crime

I recall those old comic horror movies in which Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello or whomever found themselves in haunted houses. At the end the ghostly visions were usually explained as a hoax perpetrated by a villain trying to protect a treasure or whatever. This is a bit like what Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May mysteries are like. There's a lot of the supernatural, black magic and mysticism, all given a rational explanation once the mystery is unraveled. And like those old movies, these mysteries are a lot of fun.

The 11th book in the series, Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart (Bantam) proves to be a gem. Two teenagers making out in an old London cemetery see a corpse rise out of its grace and begin walking and talking. Later the boy is run down in the street and killed. Was it an accident or murder? The case seems a natural for Scotland Yard's Peculiar Crimes Unit headed by Arthur Bryant and John May.

Naturally the two aging detectives with unorthodox methods have superiors eager to pull the plug on their funding. And a case which may not even be a case at all, just the hallucinations of a couple of drugged teens, may give the brass exactly what they need to put Bryant and May out to pasture. Bryant is even shuffled off to another peculiar crime, the sudden disappearance of all the ravens at the Tower of London.

Fowler maintains good balance between light and dark, the humor surrounding the team's operating methods and personalities and the serious crimes they investigate. And as bodies begin piling up, both those already buried and those who die violently, it becomes apparent this is a serious crime. But how to explain it? Why would anyone be digging up bodies? What happened to the boy? Why did a man kill himself? Why does his widow blame the man's death on his boss? And what happened to all those ravens?

This new book is an excellent addition to this popular series.

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