FICTION

Bryant & May: Strange Tide; A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery

Bantam. Dec. 2016. 436p. ISBN 9781101887035. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101887042. F
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The river Thames takes center stage in Fowler's 13th "Peculiar Crimes Unit" adventure (after The Burning Man) when the drowned corpse of a young woman is found chained to a post along the shoreline. Because only the victim's footsteps are found at the scene, Arthur Bryant, one of the unit's elderly lead detectives and a connoisseur of London's arcane history, initially considers the cause of death to be suicide as part of some sort of rebirthing ritual. But Arthur has been suspended from police work owing to what appears to be worsening symptoms of dementia. When his partner John May becomes the prime suspect in a second river-related death, it looks like the end of the road for the senior sleuths and their tight-knit, if a bit chaotic and disorganized, team of investigators. Along the way, Fowler weaves in a second story involving an ambitious Libyan refugee-turned-con artist, and we know that eventually this young man will encounter Bryant and May.
VERDICT Fowler's mysteries are really love letters to the city of London, mixing obscure historical tidbits about the city's ancient past and landmarks with eerie crimes to be solved by two of mystery's most engaging older sleuths since Miss Marple. His latest effort, though, is hampered by an overly convoluted plot and surprisingly weak character development. Still, fans will find pleasures in this sprawling, messy mystery.

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