Meet Arthur Bryant and John May of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit. The creation of author Christopher Fowler, this detective duo investigates cases with the potential to cause national scandal or public unrest. Set between the Second World War and the present day, Bryant and May tackle complex and sometimes seemingly impossible cases.
Eccentric, yet highly believable, the two detectives bring us humour, wit and charm, and have been labelled as contemporary crime fiction’s answer to double acts such as Holmes and Watson and Mulder and Scully.
To whet your appetite, we thought we’d take a quick look at Christopher’s Bryant and May books. If you’re yet to discover the series, you are in for a treat!
Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May books in order:
In 1940s London, a beautiful dancer rehearsing for a sexy, sinister production is found without her feet. The investigation plunges Bryant and May into a bizarre gothic mystery, where a faceless man stalks terrified actors and death strikes in darkness.
The body of an elderly woman is found at Number 5, Balaklava Street. Her death would appear to have been peaceful but for the fact that her throat is full of river water. It falls to Bryant and May to search for something resembling a logical solution.
Members of an aristocratic family are being killed in a variety of grotesque ways – by reptile, by bomb, by haircut. The investigation leads Bryant and May into a hidden world of class conflict, craftsmanship and the secret loyalties of big business.
A controversial artist is found dead in her own art installation inside a gallery with locked doors and windows. The only witness insists the murderer was a masked man on a horse. Then a television presenter is struck by lightning while indoors. Bryant and May’s investigations into the two seemingly impossible crimes explore the dark side of celebrity, conflicts of youth, age and class, and the myths of old London.
A key member of staff at the Peculiar Crimes Unit has been found murdered – and Bryant and May, stranded on a desolate snowbound section of country road, aren’t on hand to solve the crime. As the blizzard worsens, they attempt to solve the crime long distance using only their mobile phones. But unknown to the detectives, an obsessed killer is stalking the stranded vehicles, searching for one particular victim…
One night, Bryant witnesses a drunk middle-aged lady coming out of a pub in a London backstreet. The next morning, she is found dead at the exact spot where their paths crossed – only the pub has vanished and the street itself has changed. Then it becomes clear that a number of women have met their ends in London pubs. It seems a silent, secret killer is at work, striking in full view… and yet nobody has a clue how, why, or where he’ll attack next.
When a headless body is found in a freezer, and a gigantic figure dressed in deerskin and sporting antlers made of knives is spotted on a construction site, the recently disbanded PCU are suddenly back in business…
Bryant and May are on the trail of an enigma: Mr Fox, a young man with a false identity who somehow he escaped from a locked room and murdered one of their best and brightest. The investigation leads them down into the darkest recesses of the London Underground – edging closer to what lies hidden beneath the city, and to the madness that is driving a man to murder.
During Robert Kramer’s party, his new young wife goes to check on their baby boy. She finds the nursery door locked from the inside – and breaking in, they face an open window, an empty cot, and a grotesque antique puppet of Mr Punch lying on the floor. It seems that child was thrown from the building having been strangled, and the marks of the puppet’s hands are clearly visible on his throat.
Two small children are playing a game called ‘Witch-Hunter’. They place a curse on a young woman taking lunch in a church courtyard and wait for her to die. An hour later the woman is indeed found dead inside St Bride’s Church – a building that no-one else has entered.
Two teenagers see a dead man rising from his grave. Then one of them is killed in a hit and run accident. Stranger still, in the moments between when he was last seen alive and found dead on the pavement, someone changed his shirt. Bryant is not allowed to investigate and has been tasked with finding out how the ravens have vanished from The Tower of London. As legend has it, when the ravens leave, the nation falls…
London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police. But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.
Using their network of eccentric contacts, Bryant and May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.
The river Thames is London’s most important yet neglected artery. When a young woman is found chained to a post in the tide, no-one can understand how she came to be drowned there. At the Peculiar Crimes Unit, Bryant and May find themselves dealing with an impossible crime committed in a very public place. Soon they discover that the river is giving up other victims, but as the investigation extends from the coast of Libya to the nightclubs of North London, it proves as murkily sinister as the Thames itself.
As the detectives’ disastrous investigation comes unstuck, the whole team gets involved in some serious messing about on the river. In an adventure that’s as twisting as the river upon which it’s set, will there be anything left of the Peculiar Crimes Unit when it’s over?
In an exclusive London crescent, a woman walks her dog – but she’s being watched. When she’s found dead, the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. Why? Because the method of death is odd, the gardens are locked, the killer had no way in – or out – and the dog has disappeared. But the hows and whys of the murder are not the only mysteries surrounding the dead woman – there’s a missing husband and a lost nanny to puzzle over too. And it seems very like that the killer is preparing to strike again.
As Bryant delves into the history of London’s ‘wild chambers’ – its extraordinary parks and gardens, May and the rest of the team seem to have caused a national scandal. If no-one is safe then all of London’s open spaces must be closed…
The year is 1969 and ten guests are about to enjoy a country house weekend at Tavistock Hall. But one amongst them is harbouring thoughts of murder. Amongst the guests are Bryant and May – undercover, in disguise and tasked with protecting Monty Hatton-Jones, a whistle-blower turning Queen’s evidence in a massive bribery trial.
The scene is set for what could be the perfect country house murder mystery, except that this particular get-together is nothing like a Golden Age classic. The house’s owner – a penniless, dope-smoking aristocrat – is intent on selling the estate to a secretive millionaire but the weekend has only just started when the millionaire goes missing and murder is on the cards. But army manoeuvres have closed the only access road and without a forensic examiner, Bryant and May can’t solve the case.
It’s when a falling gargoyle fells another guest that the two incognito detectives decide to place their future reputations on the line. And in the process discover that in Swinging Britain nothing is quite what it seems…
On a rainy winter night outside a run-down nightclub in the wrong part of London, four strangers meet for the first time at 4:00am. A few weeks later the body of an Indian textile worker is found hanging upside down inside a willow tree on Hampstead Heath. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. The victim was found surrounded by the paraphernalia of black magic, and so Arthur Bryant and John May set off to question experts in the field. But the case is not what it appears. When another victim seemingly commits suicide, it becomes clear that in the London night is a killer who knows what people fear most. And he always strikes at 4:00am.
To catch him, the PCU must switch to night shifts, but still the team draws a blank. John May takes a technological approach, Arthur Bryant goes in search of academics and misfits for help, for this is becoming a case that reveals impossibilities at every turn, not least that there’s no indication of what the victims might have done to attract the attentions of a murderer that doesn’t seem to exist. But impossibilities are what the Peculiar Crimes Unit does best. As they explore a night city where all the normal rules are upended, they’re drawn deeper into a case that involves murder, arson, kidnap, blackmail, bats and the psychological effects of loneliness on Londoners. It’s a trail that takes them from the poorest part of the East End to the wealthiest homes in North London – an investigation that can only end in tragedy…
Arthur Bryant has decided to open the files on eleven of these previously unseen investigations that required the collective genius and unique modus operandi of Bryant, May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit – investigations that range from different times and a variety of places: a circus freak show, on board a London Tour Bus and even a yacht off the coast of Turkey.
Bryant and May’s Mystery Tour – digital short story
When Bryant is summoned by the Home Office to attend a crime scene, Bryant and May find themselves in pursuit of the individual who strangled a 54-year-old cleaning lady in her flat. It soon becomes clear that this ‘normal’ murder is anything but straightforward.
There you have it – Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May books in order! How many have you read? Let us know in the comments below…