I was first introduced to the Bryant and May series by Chris Simmons from crimesquad.com. I’d recently moved to London from Liverpool where I used to live near the old Bryant and May match factory on the Speke Road. The first book in the series, Full Dark House, had just been published and I wanted to see the characters he had created using the iconic name pairing. In Fowler’s books, Arthur Bryant and John May head the Peculiar Crimes Unit, a division of the Met police founded during the Second World War to investigate cases that could cause national scandal or public unrest. It’s a great premise for a series and the books have been of a consistently high quality.
In Wild Chamber, the death of a child has unforeseen consequences. A woman is found murdered in a locked private garden in London and her husband and nanny are missing as is the dog she was walking. A killer is on the loose and planning his next victim but Bryan and May become embroiled in a national scandal which hampers their investigations.
What I increasingly like in the crime novels I read, is a story beyond the mystery that is presented. Fowler’s books give insights into London’s history (here the private gardens or ‘wild chambers’), splashes of humour, intelligent prose and an otherworldly setting. This otherness usually comes from Arthur Bryant and his out of body experiences. If anything, the slight supernatural element was toned down in Wild Chamber but balanced by the wonderful insights into London’s private gardens that I used to look at enviously through railings when I lived there.
This is the fourteenth book in series and, as ever, a joy to read. Its intelligent crime fiction that’s accessible to everyone.