RogerBW's Blog

The Victoria Vanishes, Christopher Fowler 21 July 2022

2008 police procedural mystery/horror, sixth in the Bryant and May series. Women are being murdered in pubs, in a weird way. Bryant saw one of them before she died, but even the pub she went into isn't there any more…

It's still not great, but it's definitely a step up from White Corridor, the previous book. The unit is threatened with being shut down yet again, but this time rather than teasing us with it Fowler actually allows it to happen (though now we know there are more books to come). The murderer is found, but that isn't at all the whole story. There's a pleasing blend of good honest police work with Bryant's sideways approach to things.

But I've been in most of the pubs Fowler mentions, and he doesn't ever seem to catch the atmosphere, particularly the smells: a pub is just a pub, it seems, unless it has specific sorts of weird people in it.

Bryant is still annoying, casually offending people to no gain just because he's an old white man and can get away with it. Some of the other regulars are a bit more interesting, though none of their ongoing plots gets anything like a resolution. One external recurring character is brought into the unit, and while we're clearly meant to like him better as we get to know him the result really isn't consistent with the person he was before. The evidence gets increasingly and pleasingly baroque, but when all is revealed it's inevitably a disappointment, and the actions that started the investigation make very little sense in terms of the villains' overall goals. The idea that any woman unable to have children of her own must have a maternal instinct that will make her happy to look after a baby, well.

And there are the little stabby misuses of language that continue to annoy (and presumably Fowler was by this point too successful to submit to editing).

"When it comes to the lost icons of antiquity, you have a gullible buyers' market and plenty of unscrupulous salesmen willing to feed it."

No, the point is that it's a sellers' market, i.e. it's good for the sellers.

The pair followed a rough ziggurat back along Bryant's route

I just don't know what this is meant to be, unless perhaps "zig-zag".

I still don't love the series, but I'm at least re-engaged enough to want to continue with it.

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Previous in series: White Corridor | Series: Bryant and May

  1. Posted by Gus at 11:54pm on 21 July 2022

    Those roaming rough ziggurats are a hazardous nuisance and ought to be TNR'd.

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