Saturday, October 25, 2008

Review: The Victoria Vanishes: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery by Christopher Fowler

Something terrible is happening in the old pubs of London. Women are being gently killed in the middle of crowded and noisy nightspots. The first couple of deaths are not tied together right away. But then the similarities are noticed by Arthur Bryant of the Peculiar Crimes Unit and the hunt for a murderer begins.

Bryant and his partner, John May, are an unusual pair. They are in their eighties and have been solving London's oddest crimes for years. They are an anachronism, solving cases the old fashioned way (with Sherlock Holmes-like detection) rather than with modern technology. The Home Office has been trying to close their unit for years.

While walking home from a gathering, Bryant sees what turns out to be one of the victims leaving a pub, The Victoria Cross. When they later go back to investigate, there is no pub there. The property in question is now a grocery, the Victoria Cross has not existed for eighty years. This does not bode well for Bryant's employment status, the Home Office will definitely use his apparent hallucination as a reason to disband the unit. The case must be solved satisfactorily to preserve the PCU.

The entire team at the PCU is quirky and interesting. They work together well despite their totally divergent personalities. There is a creative mystery that has a satisfying resolution.

Embedded in the narrative is a lovely homage to the classic old London pubs, which are fast disappearing due to high property values and development schemes.

"The pubs of London are taken almost completely for granted by those who drink in them. Every single one has a unique and extraordinary history...these places hold the key to our past, and therefore present. They're and unappreciated indication of who we are, and a sign of all we've lost and remember fondly."

This is the sixth, and I think final, entry into the Bryant & May mystery series. I'll be going back to read the first five, this last one peaked my interest. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the adventures of these unusual detectives.

My thanks to the Library Thing Early Reviewers program for sending me this book!

The Victoria Vanishes is published by Bantam Dell. ISBN 978-0-553-80502-4

Order The Victoria Vanishes from Amazon

9 comments:

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Looks like a good read...love your blog, by the way (from one intrepid crew member to another!). ;)

bermudaonion said...

Looks like a fun read - I even love the cover!

The Tome Traveller said...

I really liked it but am irked, once again, that I have come in late (in this case at the end) and have to go back and read the previous ones so that I know the whole scoop. I really, really dislike reading series books out of order!

Michele, what a fantastic blog! I have added you to my following list and my blogroll. I don't know how I missed it up till now. We crew members gotta stick together!

Beth F said...

Thanks so much for this. I love mysteries and -- like you -- I absolutely hate to read them out of order. But you have saved me from that fate. I'm going to start at the beginning.

Literary Feline said...

Oh, okay! So LT is where I first heard about this one! I recently picked up the first book in this author's series and couldn't remember why the author's name sounded so familiar. And here I find your review of the latest in the series! Great timing! And great review!

S. Krishna said...

I've heard good things about these, I'm adding the first to my TBR list now!

Katherine said...

Hi; stumbled across your blog from LT. I enjoyed this one, too; loved the arcane London pub lore sprinkled throughout.

Anonymous said...

It was intended as the last book, butdue to demand, he's keeping going, and Bryant and May On The Loose is coming out next year.

tashiana said...

this looks really good
you make it sound really good lol
i love ghost stories and this has elements of a ghost story
plus its about a serial killer
all around i'd like to read this one

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.