Christopher Fowler - Shastrix Books

Christopher Fowler

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The Sand Men

The Sand Men

Christopher Fowler

9th February 2020

This is the first of Fowler’s books I’ve read outside the Bryant and May series, and I was slightly trepidatious. The cover reminded me of a book I recently read by another author, which was desert-based urban fantasy, and which I didn’t get on with. However I needn’t have worried.

It’s the story of a family - father, mother, and daughter - whose lives change when they move from London to Dubai, as the father obtains a job on a massive construction project. But of course this wouldn’t be a story if everything was as it seems.

There’s a familiar feel to the opening - a slight hint of dark fantasy that in the light of day becomes human agency. A mystery and paranoia, and a sense that you aren’t quite sure who to believe - particularly in this case as the narrative is very focussed on one viewpoint, with just hints that the other characters have quite interesting lives going on in parallel.

I felt the plot became more rushed as it went on, but that may be reflective of my variable reading pace. There was also a large chunk of narrative that confused me, and left me not knowing exactly what I was meant to believe was happening. As a result I’m not sure I felt the conclusion was satisfactory.

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The Memory of Blood

The Memory of Blood

Christopher Fowler

19th May 2019

Book nine for Bryant and May takes a different route than the one I had expected. The previous two novels having formed a mini-series, I was expecting this to form part three of the trilogy, but I was wrong and it stands alone.

The crime seems rather more brutal than those of previous novels, and somewhat more of the classic locked room mystery, just with the usual peculiar crime aspects bundled in - such as the apparent only suspect being a puppet of Mr Punch.

Somewhat confusingly, this isn’t the only paranormal crime novel set in London featuring Mr Punch that I’ve read this year, and I did find I needed to remind myself every so often which bits of plot belonged to which book.

It’s a good mystery though, and continues to explore the characters who work with the Peculiar Crimes Unit, and I look forward to continuing adventuring with them.

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Buy book: UK
Off the Rails

Off the Rails

Christopher Fowler

7th July 2018

Bryant & May’s eighth adventure takes an interesting twist on the series, being the first novel that is a direct sequel to the preceding one. The continuing case of The Fox, who having escaped custody appears to have begun a new killing spree, and the detectives are once again given an absurdly short deadline to complete the case or be shut down.

While it’s a good mystery story, I felt that this one had lost a little of what earlier novels had. The crimes aren’t particularly peculiar in their nature - they are fairly ordinary as crimes go - and the character developments that have been at the forefront of previous stories seem to have been back-burnered in favour of plot.

The narrative is however quite amusing, in a relaxed way. There are a few in jokes, at the author and characters’ expense, as well as a number of moments of humour and particularly strong and witty dialogue. This I think was what held the book together and made me race through the pages, rather than anything with the plot itself.

A good mystery overall, with some interesting twists and turns, and a satisfying resolution.

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Buy book: UK
On the Loose

On the Loose

Christopher Fowler

7th September 2017

The seventh novel about the Peculiar Crimes Unit opens with the interesting twist of the unit being disbanded and its staff sent on their merry way. This is of course followed by the discovery of a peculiar crime, and the investigation is off.

Like many of the previous novels, the interesting content is not so much the plot or investigation, but the details that it uncovers about London, specifically in this case Kings Cross, and its history, as well as the interaction between the characters, which has both a comedic and a slightly dark edge.

I'm still not entirely sure I've got a grip on what the series is meant to be about. But I don't think it really matter as it keeps me entertained and wanting to pick up the next book.

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The Victoria Vanishes

The Victoria Vanishes

Christopher Fowler

20th December 2016

The sixth Bryant and May novel follows on very swiftly from the fifth, beginning at a wake. Stumbling home, Bryant has an unusual encounter that kicks off one of the most bizarre and puzzling investigations the Peculiar Crimes Unit has faced.

It's an absolutely fascinating plot that certainly makes for one of the best entries in the series. There's one moment that felt a bit unfair to the reader trying to follow along, but the balance of comedy, tragedy, action and mystery is perfect.

One of the things I've just noticed that I'm enjoying in this series is the rotation of character focus. While the whole series is of course about the two title characters, the secondary cast seem to be taking turns under the spotlight to examine their lives and motivations.

Another great story that makes me really glad that I continued reading, and that there are lots more of them lined up ready on my shelf.

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White Corridor

White Corridor

Christopher Fowler

19th April 2016

I find the timeline of the Bryant and May novels somewhat baffling given that they aren't in chronological order, but this one has mobile telephones so I'm fairly convinced that it's set in the modern day. It's an interesting if slightly bizarre story that follows the main police officers as they head to Plymouth for a spiritualist convention, their team as they investigate a death that's a little close to home, and a mother and son running away.

Somehow this all comes together in an entertaining plot that all makes perfect sense at the end of the day. The story moves at a good pace, surprising really given that it feels like it should be slow as there's not a massive amount of action, and as usual includes various unexpected twists and loose threads that are left dangling for future stories.

One of the nice things about this story was spending some time with the junior officers, and getting to know them better rather than sticking with the main characters, who in my head have now settled down into the images of Mainwaring and Wilson from Dad's Army.

Overall a really good mix of plotlines that I enjoyed reading. I love that I can't know what to expect with each book in this series and that they can continue to surprise and delight me, and I look forward to more of the same.

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Ten Second Staircase

Ten Second Staircase

Christopher Fowler

4th December 2015

I was very tempted to give up on the Bryant and May series after reading book three and finding it dull and hard to follow. It was only because I already had more books in the series already waiting on my shelf that I decided to pick up Ten Second Staircase and give it a go. I'm very glad I did.

Set in the present day, our at least relatively close to it, this fourth book tells of an investigation by the Peculiar Crimes Unit into a mysterious death of a controversial public figure. The plot is much more similar I structure and detail to a typical detective story, and I finally got my head around who all the characters are and how the world fits together.

It's a really good mystery that fits the style of the series without distracting from the story, and serves really well to establish the world that these books are set in. I almost wish that this had been the first book I read as it is much more approachable and really gripped me all the way through and has made me much more excited about continuing reading about these characters.

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Other reviewed books

Seventy-Seven Clocks
The Water Room
Full Dark House

Unreviewed books

Psychoville
The Bleeding Heart
The Burning Man

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