The Burning Man (Bryant & May)

the burning man

The Burning Man
by Christopher Fowler

London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.

But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.

Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.

At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives – but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.

‘I always said we’d go out with a hell of a bang,’ warns Bryant.

London is in the grip of revolution. The bankers are doing their worst and there are riots spreading everywhere. A young homeless man is killed when a petrol bomb is thrown where he is sleeping. At first it seems like a tragic accident but as more murders occur in the days leading up to bonfire night it becomes clear that something more sinister is going on. It is down to the two elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May and their colleagues in the Peculiar Crimes Unit to find the culprit. Unfortunately Bryant has more than this case to contend with, receiving awful life-changing news.

This is the twelfth novel in the Bryant & May series and I have absolutely no idea how I have missed them before, but missed them I have and this was my first. I was a little concerned that I might find it difficult to get into being so far into the series, but I needed to have no such worries. This is perfect as a standalone novel, there are not huge amounts of back story to contend with, rather the characters come across as people you’ve just met yet feel like you’ve known forever.

Despite the grim subject matter there is plenty of warmth and humour to be found, not least from Arthur Bryant. I loved this character who has more than a little of the Poirot about him. Not sartorially; definitely not sartorially, but in his idiosyncratic ways he was reminiscent of the Belgian detective.

The author’s style makes this book so easy to read and his love for the characters comes shining through. One of the biggest characters in the book is London; the sounds and smells jump off the page at you, it is rare to get such a sense of place. Not only that but the story is woven around the history of London and there is some detailed research that has gone into this book but it’s never a chore to read.

I really enjoyed this novel and will definitely be going through the back catalogue and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Many thanks to Sophie at Transworld for sending me a copy via netgalley.


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