Tony's Mystery Pick
Published on Monday, March 1, 2010 - 5:21pm
Recommended for fans of: British Mysteries, Offbeat Protagonists
The other week, the striking cover art of Bryant and May on the Loose caught my attention, and the description of a rollicking mystery featuring two peculiar London detectives only further whetted my appetite. However, I prefer to read mystery series in order, so I got a hold of the first "Bryant and May" adventure: Full Dark House.
This first book in the series introduces the reader to the detective duo, who meet in 1940 as London is getting hammered nightly by the Blitz. Bryant is the 22-year-old head of an obscure police unit set up as a dumping ground for odd or confounding cases, and May is his newly arrived 19-year-old assistant.
However, the book also follows a modern storyline in which their office is blown up, killing the octogenarian Bryant. With the two time frames, we get two mysteries. In the former (which takes up the bulk of the book), several cast members of a provocative and controversial new West End play meet with grisly ends which may or may not be accidents. Bryant and May are tasked with investigating the "Palace Phantom," as London grimly attempts to keep on doing business as usual in the face of the German bombs.
The other plot line has May casting his mind back to the Palace Phantom case to try and work out what links might remain after 60 years that would lead to the murder of his friend and partner in crime detection. Bryant and May are a classic odd couple (Holmes and Watson being the obvious comparison), with Bryant a well-read classicist with a broad and deep interest in the arcane and supernatural, while May is the more logical and physically hardy of the two.