Saturday, October 25, 2008
Mother of Mercy! Can This Be the End of the Peculiar Crimes Unit?
“ 'My dear chap,” said Bryant, 'everyone is younger and fitter than us. What have we got on our side? Decrepitude, mid-afternoon narcoleptic attacks and ill-timed lapses of memory. Although being the oldest, I am of course less afraid of dying and therefore liable to do anything, no matter how uncalled-for and dangerous.'
“May eyed him warily. 'Thanks for the warning.' “
That's from WHITE CORRIDOR, just out in trade paperback -- the fifth adventure of Arthur Bryant (short, chubby, rough-clad, consumer of vast quantities of ale in pubs all over the London he knows as well as the age spots on the back of his hand) and John May (slim, elegant, bespoke-tailored, dour and socially connected) who are the Senior investigators of a special Scotland Yard group called the Peculiar Crimes Unit – so secret that no one had ever heard of it until masterful British writer Christopher Fowler invented it.
Also just out, in hardcover, is THE VICTORIA VANISHES, one of the best of a series that hasn't gotten a tenth of the acclaim and sales it should have acquired. And there are signs that this may well be the end of Peculiar Crimes. Some of the junior members of the unit might possibly carry a book or two, but there are definite hints that Bryant and May (named after a match manufacturer) might not survive. No spoilers here, but it looks bleak.
THE VICTORIA VANISHES begins with Arthur helping a woman who stumbles out of a pub. When her body is found the next day, the pub seems to have disappeared. Everyone else puts it down to Bryant's muddled mind: he has lost the ashes of their pathologist somewhere in his boozy rambles after the wake. Then another woman is murdered after visting another historic pub. Peculiar, indeed.
I could go one and say how absolutely dead-on, drop dead hilarious Fowler can be, but I'd rather just quote two items from the unit's staff bulletins:
“WE ARE IN THE PROCESS OF CLEARING OUT THE BAYHAM STREET MORGUE AND REFITTING IT AS A GRADE 4 'SECURE HYGIENE' AREA, SO PERSONAL ITEMS MAY NO LONGER BE KEPT HERE. THIS NOTICE ESPECIALLY APPLIES TO THE PERSON WHO LEFT A BOX OF MAYNARD'S 'OLD TYME' WINE GUMS AND A JAR OF BRANSTON PICKLE IN ONE OF THE CADAVER DRAWERS”
“NEXT MONDAY, THE PCU FILM CLUB WILL BE SHOWING 'IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY,' WITH GOOGIE WITHERS. THIS WAS SERGEANT LONGBRIGHT'S CHOICE, SO ALL THOSE WHO WERE EXPECTING A SCREENING OF THE NEW MARTIN SCORCESE FILM SHOULD ADDRESS THEIR COMPLAINTS TO HER.”