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Bryant & May on the Loose: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery    by Christopher Fowler order for
Bryant & May on the Loose
by Christopher Fowler
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Rejoice! Why? The feisty, octogenarian detectives who headed the Peculiar Crimes Unit have not been retired as you were previously led to believe.

Arthur Bryant and John May, along with their PCU team, are back in action thanks to a series of particularly grisly murders that the Home Office wants handled quickly and discreetly. The discovery of one and then a second headless corpse has the authorities baffled. But, more to the point, the murders also endanger a major redevelopment project in the area between Euston and St. Pancras that must be complete in time for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Forced to quietly set up shop in a deserted, decrepit warehouse, Bryant and May are given a very tight timeline and limited resources. What begins as a single murder quickly expands into two, three, and then four. Trying to match the severed heads with the correct torsos is not the only challenge facing the PCU. A man dressed as a giant stag has disrupted the construction site and upset the workers, and Bryant fears there is some type of pagan ritual skullduggery connected with the case.

In a case that contains plenty of red herrings and some clever misdirection, the reader, along with the investigative odd couple will eventually come to realize that an exceedingly clever and dangerous villain has been in their sights the entire time.

Christopher Fowler saves some of the biggest surprises for the final pages of each novel in this series. In the previous case, The Victoria Vanishes, the PCU was disbanded. The shocker at the end of Bryant and May's encore not only totally blindsides the reader but also potentially sets up the PCU's next outing. Even if the unit is not officially reinstated, Bryant and May now have a specific task at hand!

One of the most entertaining, quirky investigative teams in suspense fiction today, Bryant and May are a unique combo who use some pretty unorthodox procedures to solve some very bizarre cases. The chronicle of their adventures has stretched to a half dozen novels, and hopefully Fowler has no intention of letting these two detectives retire.

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