The Victoria Vanishes: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery by Christopher Fowler
I picked up The Victoria Vanishes, I’ll admit, because of the cover, which had a crow, a bowler hat, a bottle of poison, and a syringe, and the word “peculiar.” I’m not a regular mystery reader, but the peculiar investigations of Arthur Bryant and John May were madcap, macabre and quite hilarious, and I felt as though I already knew them even though I had not read any of their earlier investigations.
A serial killer is targeting middle-aged women who he injects with a poison, but his attack and their deaths remain hidden in the crowd of the pubs. The Peculiar Crimes Unit gets the case after Bryant realizes that he observed one of the victims enter the Victoria Cross, a pub that hasn’t existed for almost a century. Bryant is losing his memory and May is considering retirement in the wake of his failing health, and someone has misplaced the ashes of the co-worker they’ve gathered to honor as the book opens.
The Peculiar Crimes Unit is the sort of place I’d want to work if I were in British Law Enforcement and didn’t really care about having a life or advancing my career. Bryant and May seem like fascinating if sometimes undependable and workaholic bosses, and the crimes the Unit ends up solving would likely never be solved by normal means. Still, it’s a department that exists on the very edges of the law, and it seems like some bad things historically happen to their coroners.
Be warned: The Victoria Vanishes is apparently the last of the series, so, while it’s very readable even if you haven’t read the others in the series first, there is only one direction to go in after Victoria Vanishes, and that’s backwards. If that means I get to spend more time with Bryant and May, then I’m happy to start over at the beginning.