This is the third book I've been sent in the Transworld Book Challenge, and it is the second in the Bryant and May series. I have recently read the first, 'A Full Dark House' though I haven' reviewed it yet. I really enjoyed it and so was looking forward to reading this one.
Arthur Bryant and John May are senior detectives with the Peculiar Crimes Squad, which is a very small department within London's Metropolitan Police. The peculiar crime they are investigating in this story is the death of an elderly woman, Ruth Singh. Ruth has been found in her own home, sitting in a chair, dressed as if she's about to go out - yet it appears she has drowned. Not only that, but the water in her throat is river water.
Ruth Singh lived at 5 Balaklava Street in London, an area which had previously been very poor, but is in the process of becoming gentrified. People like Ruth, who have lived there for decades, live alongside the upwardly mobile who are hoping to make a quick buck as house prices rise. The history of the area proves important in the investigation. Christopher Fowler is very good at describing London and the fascinating palimpsest that makes it what it is. He doesn't describe a sanitised, tourist brochure version of the city, but a messy, vital, dirty, secret-riven place. Yet he still manages to make it magical and attractive.
Bryant and May are wonderful characters. Both are elderly, well past retirement age. Bryant feels his age more than May, but is still the reckless one, making connections no-one else can see. May is more circumspect, often reining his partner in when he goes off on one of his wilder flights of fancy. Their friendship is close and genuine, built up over sixty years of working together. I loved this book and look forward to reading more in the series.