Oskar Kasavian (familiarly known to the PCU staff as The Prince of Darkness), an executive in the Home Office, is the top level overseer of this unusual police unit set up to protect the public. He is also their number one enemy. For years Kasavian has been doing his best to shut them down and now Arthur Bryant and John May are surprised to be called into his office for a personal favor. He needs their specialized help in handling the embarrassing public behavior of his wife Sabira who is becoming increasingly erratic and violent. She's been raving about demons and witches and seems to have submerged herself into a world of paranoid imaginings. Kasavian thinks for that reason the PCU team are perfect for discovering the cause of Sabira's delusions. Or are they delusions? And what about the odd death of the woman found in St. Bride's Church who apparently was the target of some children playing an RPG called Witch Hunter? Like all PCU cases the coincidences prove to have more significance the further the team plows.
Arthur Bryant talks about the importance of connections and patterns at one point in the book. This is the basis for all the PCU books. There is a wealth of information that at first comes at the reader in random incidents, then are fired out in rapid succession. Fowler, unwittingly perhaps, is one of the greatest modern practitioners of an old subgenre known as the webwork novel. Harry Stephen Keeler was the best known American writer of webwork novels. He even wrote a manifesto -- "The Mechanics (and Kinematics) of Web-Work Plot Construction" -- about the art of creating a single story out of random multiple narrative threads. John Russell Fearn, prolific British pulp magazine writer of SF and detective fiction, credited Keeler with influencing him in his SF webwork stories.
|Synopsis in diagram form depicting the webwork plot of Keeler's Voice of the Seven Sparrows (1924)|
|Bryant & May find a victim in St Bride's Church|
(Artwork by Keith Page)
Sampling the escapades of the Peculiar Crimes Unit can be an addictive reading experience but also a dangerous one. In relating to us his love for all things bizarre and strange about the city he loves so unabashedly Fowler not only fuels a crime fiction lover's taste for the bizarre he is something of an alluring siren for the armchair traveller in all of us. He sings a song of London better than any music hall chanteuse. This armchair traveller has been tempted more than once to dip into the savings for a overseas trip to see up close and personal the many unusual places recounted in these extremely entertaining books. And that's the kind of connection I like between a writer and his readership.
Bryant & May and The Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler
Transworld/Doubleday, August 2012
ISBN: 978-0857520500 (hardcover in UK and Canada only)
Available as an eBook and audio book in the US now
US hardcover edition release date is unknown