Bryant & May on the Loose: Review of a London Mystery

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Christopher Fowler has done it again.

John May, although he was in his eighties, was a dapper man who drove a BMW and wore Prada shoes. His colleague however, octogenarian Arthur Bryant, was an intellectually curious eccentric who gave the appearance of being something the cat dragged in. Together, they ran the PCU – the Peculiar Crimes Unit.

Byrant and May on the Loose

What is the Peculiar Crimes Unit?

The pair had been heading the PCU since they were in their twenties. It was an unknown and highly bizarre department of London’s Metropolitan Police. Crimes that were simply too strange for the average copper, went to the Peculiar Crimes Unit and its eccentric team.

The London Olympics, ancient mythology, pagan rites and headless corpses

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the book introduces us to a half-man half-stag who roams the streets of London with antlers fashioned from kitchen knives, a down-to-earth white witch, Bryant and May’s aging Diana Dors / Jayne Mansfield lookalike sidekick and that’s not to mention both Boudicca and the Beatles – who all feature in this hilarious but intriguing mystery.

The PCU back together again

The Peculiar Crimes Unit, from day one, had a strange relationship with the regular police, which wasn’t helped by Bryant’s eccentric methods and acerbic attitude. And at the beginning of this book, the unit has been disbanded. But when a naked and headless body turns up in the freezer of a derelict London Nigerian-owned chip shop who else but Bryant and May could cope?

Yes, it’s truly daft.

Just one week The police powers-that-be gave the pair just one week to solve the crime. Then another body turns up, sans head, the half-man half-stag appears on the streets and Bryant starts to ramble inexplicably about Mesolithic settlements, May Day ceremonies and the Great Forest of Middlesex.

The game is on

Meet the author – Christopher Fowler

Meet the author and hear him talking about this book

Listen to this quick video of Christopher Fowler explaining about the characters of the two detectives, the Peculiar Crimes Unit and their modus operandi.

Also highly recommended

The Water Room

I have also written about The Water Room  by the same author. I find that once you’ve read one of his books, you’ll want to read more.

Here, we have a series of murders for the duo to solve, the first being an old lady who has drowned – but she was fully clothed, perfectly dry and in her house when she met her death. She obviously didn’t die of natural causes.  But she was an old lady and a recluse so who on earth would want her dead? And the regular police force really wouldn’t care about this non-violent but intriguing death –  perfect for the Bryant and May team.

You’ll love the mysterious tramp, the bizarre neighbourhood, the eccentric professor and the fascinating stories about hidden London.


Full Dark House

I don’t know about you but I always find stories about places of entertainment – circuses and the like – to have slightly creepy element.

So I absolutely love this mystery with its roots in the theatre – a touch of Phantom of the Opera.

Add to this that the book dips between the early days of the duo working together during the London Blitz, then zooming back to the twenty first century and you’ve got a complete winner.

See a sample page from Bryant and May on the Loose.

Bryant and May on the Loose


Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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  1. This sounds amazing Jackie! From your review it also reminds me slightly of one Mr Dirk Gently. It sounds just my cup of tea. I will have to add it to my wish list… Thanks. :0)

    • I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it, Dreya!

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