RogerBW's Blog

On the Loose, Christopher Fowler 26 April 2023

2009 police procedural mystery/horror, seventh in the Bryant and May series. A headless body is found in an empty shop; someone dressed in a deerskin, with knives for antlers, is terrifying people on the construction site north of King's Cross. Where is the PCU when you need it?

So it's even more politically fraught than usual, as once more the PCU is spared the administrative axe and given an unreasonably short deadline to solve a complicated case. For an extra thumb on the scales, they don't get any access to other police resources.

The development is obviously a version of King's Cross Central, but largely the story is the recipe as before: May tries to do actual police work, Bryant goes off chasing hares and offending people, but of the huge number of unreasonable suggestions Bryant has made one turns out to have some value so he can feel smug. It's nothing remarkable, but it works reasonably well.

All right, if I knew less about weird history and London specifically I might be more impressed by the details that Fowler's dug up. His audience is people who still think that Battle Bridge was named because of Boudicca, or haven't heard of it at all, and so what would for other people be exciting weirdness feels to me more like box-ticking. That's not his fault.

The main difference from the pattern of the series to date is that this book ends on a down note, with an obvious lead-in to the next one – which means that the reader is largely deprived of the usual emotional catharsis that's the reward for putting up with all the plodding investigation.

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Previous in series: Victoria Vanishes, The | Series: Bryant and May

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