Cover image for Bryant & May : the lonely hour
Title:
Bryant & May : the lonely hour
ISBN:
9780525485827
Edition:
1st U.S. ed.
Physical Description:
429 pages ; 22 cm.
Summary:
When a man is found hanging upside down inside a willow tree on Hampstead Heath, surrounded by a baffling assortment of occult objects, the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. Was this a botched Satanic ritual pulled off by bored teenagers, a gang initiation, or the work of a mastermind with grander intentions? Bryant and May set off for answers and soon discover that London is a city steeped in blood and magic. When another body is pulled from the river in the early morning light, it becomes clear that a killer lurks in the night. To catch him, the PCU switches to graveyard shifts, but the team still comes up short. As they explore a night city where the normal rules do not apply, they're drawn deeper into a case that involves murder, arson, kidnapping, blackmail, loneliness, and bats. May takes a technological approach, while Bryant goes in search of academics and misfits for help, for this is becoming an investigation that reveals impossibilities at every turn. How do you stop a killer who appears not to exist? Luckily, impossibilities are what the Peculiar Crimes Unit does best. --
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Summary

Summary

"Oh, joy, a new Peculiar Crimes Unit case by Christopher Fowler . . . the best fun is running all over the city with these amiable partners."-- The New York Times Book Review

The brilliant Arthur Bryant and John May take the late, late shift in a cat-and-mouse hunt with a killer who preys on his victims at the same time every night--the lonely hour of 4 A.M.

When a man is found hanging upside down inside a willow tree on Hampstead Heath, surrounded by a baffling assortment of occult objects, the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. Was this a botched satanic ritual pulled off by bored teenagers, a gang initiation, or the work of a mastermind with grander intentions? Bryant and May set off in search of answers and are soon reminded that London is a city steeped in blood and magic.

When another body is pulled from the river at dawn, it becomes clear that a killer lurks in the night. To catch him, the PCU switches to graveyard shifts, but the team still comes up short. As they explore a night city where the normal rules do not apply, they're drawn deeper into a case that involves murder, arson, kidnapping, blackmail, loneliness, and bats.

May takes a technological approach, while Bryant goes in search of his usual academics and misfits for help, for this investigation reveals impossibilities at every turn. How do you stop a killer who appears not to exist? Luckily, impossibilities are what the Peculiar Crimes Unit does best.


Author Notes

Christopher Fowler is the acclaimed author of the award-winning Full Dark House and fifteen other Peculiar Crimes Unit mysteries, as well as the PCU story collection London's Glory . In 2015, Fowler won the coveted Crime Writers' Association Dagger in the Library Award in recognition for his body of work. He lives in London, where he is at work on his next Peculiar Crimes Unit novel.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Fowler's exceptional 17th novel featuring Arthur Bryant and John May of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit (after 2018's Bryant & May: Hall of Mirrors), the PCU investigates a murder committed with a trocar, a surgical instrument normally used to drain body fluids. A man wearing a pig mask, Hugo Blake, used it on Dhruv Cheema, who worked in his family's fashion business. After hanging Cheema upside down in Hampstead Heath, within a circle of objects associated with satanic rituals, Blake stabbed him in the neck. The next night, Blake stabs another man in the neck before throwing his body over a bridge into the Thames. Fowler maintains suspense by alternating between Blake's bloody campaign and the PCU's desperate efforts to stop it by trying to find a connection between the victims. Meanwhile, Bryant and May's decades-old partnership is tested as never before as the two argue fiercely over how to proceed. This whydunit is the epitome of an intelligent page-turner. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Dec.)


Booklist Review

There's nothing funny about murder, much less serial murders, yet readers can count on a few lighthearted, even laugh-out-loud, moments when London's Peculiar Crimes Unit with senior detectives Arthur Bryant, a dotty oldster whose colleagues would follow him anywhere if only out of curiosity, and John May, the slightly younger straight man of the duo pursue a case. A man's body has been found hanging upside down from a tree on Hampstead Heath, with a wound in his throat and scattered occult objects around clearly a case for the PCU, an endangered agency that succeeds somehow while breaking all the rules. Soon after, a man's body with a similar wound is found in the Thames, and, in both cases, the time of death is the ""lonely hour"" of four in the morning. The victims are linked only by having been in a shared taxi one early morning months earlier, the PCU staff struggling to find a motive. A significant entry in a series that's as entertaining as it is is eccentric.--Michele Leber Copyright 2019 Booklist


Kirkus Review

Back from the prequel that followed them to 1969 (Bryant and May: Hall of Mirrors, 2018), the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit settle in to another round of doing what they do best in present-day London: creating chaos while bringing an unusually single-minded killer to book.On normal excursions, the Ladies of the Night meet to map the colonies of the bats they're trying to preserve on Hampstead Heath. But insomniac Sparrow (nee Candice) Martin's brief glimpse of a man on the Heath wearing a pig mask and attacking another man while she's separated from the other Ladies sets her latest outing apart. Even though Sparrow takes flight, the bat journal she accidentally leaves behind allows Hugo Blake to track her down with no trouble after he's finished hanging Dhruv Cheema from his ankles amid the branches of a willow tree and stabbing him to death. Not surprisingly, the ghoulish case is sent to the PCU, where the killing of bank employee Luke Dickinson under very different circumstances but with a suspiciously similar weapon persuades DCI Arthur Bryant, the master of arcane knowledge whose sources of information seem to include every seedy character in London, that the killer, who seems to prefer striking at 4 a.m., has other victims in mindup to three others, by Bryant's precise reckoning. Since no one outside the PCU shares Bryant's unshakeable conviction, it'll be up to his longtime friend and partner, DCI John May; Operations Director Janice Longbright; DS Meera Mangeshkar; DS Colin Bimsley; and the unit's lesser lights to establish not only who the killer is, but what his victims have in common and where he's likely to strike next. Complications ensue along with the wackiest digressions in the business, at least one gobsmacking coincidence, and two deaths that will catch even the most devoted fans of this wacky franchise by surprise.The crime spree is relatively straightforward, but the devil is in the details, and Fowler's details are hilariously devilish. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Sparrow, a young woman, is out seeking rare bats. She sees something odd, but she doesn't know what she saw. The next morning, Arthur Bryant and John May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are called to the scene of a murder. Why this particular unit? The murder appears to be a witch's ritual, and the mainstream police want nothing to do with it. Another victim is found, although the connection is a matter of argument. The second victim appears to be a suicide to all except Bryant, who has alienated most of his coworkers and superiors, as only an aging professional can. This includes longtime partner May. But he usually has the right thread even if he investigates in eccentric ways. How many more victims will they find? Will Bryant and May be working together at the conclusion of the case? VERDICT Fowler's 17th installment in the series (following Hall of Mirrors) has all the idiosyncrasies and dark humor of its predecessors but stands alone well. Perfect for fans of police procedurals with nontraditional, especially older, detectives.--Elizabeth Masterson, Mecklenburg Cty. Jail Lib., Charlotte, NC


Excerpts

Excerpts

1.    Bats Script extract from Arthur Bryant's 'Peculiar London' walking tour guide (Hampstead Heath, 2 hrs, sturdy shoes) At night London is a sea of crimson eyes. Look--­you can see them everywhere. They peer down from the starless sky, clustered as tightly as pins on a map of the constellations. They mark the tops of the cranes that drift on the night currents and stalk the city like metal mantises, always with one red eye open to watch over the streets. The cranes are a sure sign that whatever you've read or heard to the contrary, London is booming. London is always booming, because of where it is and what it was and what it has become, the sprawling home to nearly nine million people. Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Mr Arthur Bryant and I will be your guide to the metropolis at night. Seen from up here on Hampstead Heath, London's thoroughfares are as tangled as veins. Over there is the city's heart, Piccadilly Circus, an electric sunburst that erases the diurnal cycle, its diodes banishing shadows and driving away miscreants. Who would have thought that the Piccadilly Commandos, those good-­time girls who lurked by the arches on the north side of the circus, would be driven out by illuminated advertisements for hamburgers? But look, a short distance away are patches as dark as lost pages of history. Hyde, Green, Regent's, Battersea, the parks at night are absent from London's map of light. We stand to the north of these, in the largest, darkest blank of all: Hampstead Heath. The heath was once densely forested, the home to boar-­hunting prehistoric tribes. The Romans drove a road through it, and those fearing the Black Death hid on it. In 1584 a great beacon was built to warn us if the Spanish Armada landed. An elm tree grew so huge here that inside it were forty-­two steps leading to a viewing platform that held twenty observers. Whenever the end of the world was predicted, Londoners came to the heath. The Gordon Rioters headed here, but were diverted with free beer at the Spaniards Inn. Literary clubs met, duellists fought and a court of law was transferred here under canvas during the Great Plague, creating 'Judges' Walk.' To this day, the heath still hosts bank holiday fairs, and 'Hampsteads' are still rhyming slang for teeth.   The Ladies of the Night usually met at dusk on the paths into the heath. They came armed with infrared cameras, motion detectors, glow sticks, notepads and hip flasks of tea. In the winter they met only once a month because of reduced nocturnal activity. Tonight they were gathering at an unusually late hour because there was to be a cloudless sky and a full moon, and Pamela's shift at the hospital didn't finish until two a.m. Matilda was the first there because she was early for everything. She volunteered for the local wildlife rescue service, which meant being willing to drive a hedgehog to an animal hospital at midnight, so this sort of activity seemed perfectly normal to her. Sparrow had yet to appear but could be heard crashing through the undergrowth from a hundred yards away. Pamela arrived with a sports bag on her back and an LED torch on her headband. She was their self-­appointed leader because she was the oldest and the most experienced. She had lately become officious because life had started to disappoint her. Sparrow had a pretty face but nothing seemed to keep her weight off. Matilda meant well. All three wore black and kept their voices low, like secret agents on a night mission. 'That must be Sparrow,' said Pamela, listening to the crackle of dead branches heading their way. 'She's as blind as a you-­know-­what and not exactly light on her feet.' 'Is it just the three of us?' Matilda asked. 'Where are the others? What happened to that woman with the alarming nose?' 'No sense of commitment.' Pamela set down her bag. 'I don't know why people sign up for things if they're not going to see them through. Mrs Hardwick stopped coming without so much as a by-your-­leave.' 'She went into hospital,' said Matilda. 'She could have told me.' 'She didn't come out.' 'Oh.' Pamela was taken aback. 'I didn't know she was ill.' 'She wasn't. She took a beetroot salad in for a friend and got septicaemia from a trolley.' Sparrow appeared beside them in a cascade of broken twigs. 'Are we the only ones? I suppose it's too late for most. They've no way of getting home.' She brushed bits of bark from her bosom. 'I came up that hill on my bike. I've got calves like concrete.' 'What's that funny smell?' asked Pamela. 'It's probably me.' Sparrow checked her bag. 'I've got a veggie carbonara in a Tupperware but the lid's loose.' 'If we want to find a winter roost we should come at dusk,' said Matilda. 'It's better when the colony is active.' 'We already know where the colony is,' Pamela explained. 'We need to map out the roost sites. I know it's late but you both said you didn't mind coming along at any time of night. Sparrow, you couldn't make more noise if you arrived in a tractor.' Sparrow carded holly leaves from her hair. 'I couldn't help it. New contacts. I've got drops in. I lost the path.' 'You didn't have to create a new one. We're not meant to disturb anything.' Pamela shook her head. Ungainly and eager to please, Sparrow was less like a tiny bird than a Labrador that had been kept in a small flat for too long. Pamela turned back to Matilda. 'We have to submit our biodiversity action plan before the end of the week or we won't be eligible for funding. The LBG will get it all.' The London Bat Group worked tirelessly to protect the capital's population of noctule, pipistrelle, serotine, Natterer's and Daubenton's bats, but there were many other rogue groups, of which the Ladies of the Night was one. At least nine further organizations were scattered across Greater London from Osterley Park to Oxleas Wood, and their members could be extremely territorial. This group had started out as an excuse to get away from husbands, partners and children, but had evolved into charity work that included the organization of midnight walks, fun runs, swimathons and bat studies. Pamela was tireless, which made her exhausting. 'It's ever so late.' Matilda looked in her backpack for something to drink. 'I'm not normally up at this time. Don't you miss your sleep?' 'I've got insomnia.' Sparrow made it sound like something you catch. 'Do you know what Alfie told me this morning?' said Pamela. '"The government should round up all the poor people and put them in camps." I don't know where he gets it from. He's eleven and has the makings of a serial killer.' 'He does have something of the night about him, doesn't he?' said Matilda unhelpfully. 'I hope for your sake it's just a phase. He'll calm down once he's learned to masturbate.' She peered at her notes. 'Tell me we're not doing pipistrelles again.' Pipistrelles were happy roosting in urban areas, under eaves and soffit boards, so they could be found in every part of the city, which somehow made them less interesting. 'Do you never read your emails?' Pamela swung her headlamp over. 'There's not much point in being out at this time of year at all,' said Sparrow. 'Why not?' Matilda asked. 'Hibernation. They spend six months asleep. We might as well be hunting tortoises.' 'Tortoises don't live in trees,' said Matilda, confused. 'Matilda, you know what I told you about thinking,' Pamela reminded her. 'We've got a Brandt's bat. Tiny and very rare. There's a clump of ash trees just this side of the water. We think it must be in there, but we don't know for sure.' 'Just the one?' asked Matilda. Pamela rolled her eyes. 'How do I know? There was a sighting of a Brandt's in the woodlands just before the ponds, and that's why we've volunteered to search for its little home.' Matilda persevered. 'If it's a single tiny bat, how are we supposed to find its roost?' 'They're very distinctive. The whole point of coming this late is to ensure that we don't disturb its flight pattern,' Pamela explained as laboriously as possible. 'I have a diagram.' She unfolded a sheet of paper with an unedifying sketch at its centre showing a very big tree and a very small hole. Matilda could remember when there were fifteen women in the group, ambling about in the golden summer dusk, but the bats were fewer now and the volunteer spotters felt they had better things to do than catalogue flying mice. Excerpted from Bryant & May: the Lonely Hour: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery by Christopher Fowler All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.