Bryant & May – Hall of Mirrors by Christopher Fowler

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The year is 1969 and ten guests are about to enjoy a country house weekend at Tavistock Hall. But one amongst them is harbouring thoughts of murder. . .

The guests also include the young detectives Arthur Bryant and John May – undercover, in disguise and tasked with protecting Monty Hatton-Jones, a whistle-blower turning Queen’s evidence in a massive bribery trial. Luckily, they’ve got a decent chap on the inside who can help them – the one-armed Brigadier, Nigel ‘Fruity’ Metcalf.

The scene is set for what could be the perfect country house murder mystery, except that this particular get-together is nothing like a Golden Age classic. For the good times are, it seems, coming to an end. The house’s owner – a penniless, dope-smoking aristocrat – is intent on selling the estate (complete with its own hippy encampment) to a secretive millionaire but the weekend has only just started when the millionaire goes missing and murder is on the cards. But army manoeuvres have closed the only access road and without a forensic examiner, Bryant and May can’t solve the case. It’s when a falling gargoyle fells another guest that the two incognito detectives decide to place their future reputations on the line. And in the process discover that in Swinging Britain nothing is quite what it seems…
So gentle reader, you are cordially invited to a weekend in the country. Expect murder, madness and mayhem in the mansion!

Man, oh man, oh man, I loved this. I even had to go against all my instincts and stretch out the reading, because I just didn’t want to get to the end and have to wait another year for the next one.  Just *love* Bryant & May.

The release of a new Bryant and May novel is always a big event at LifeOfCri.me Manor.  Each eagerly awaited edition is devoured, normally, and when the opportunity arises to get a chance of an early copy it’s one that I won’t miss.  As such I found myself getting to grips with John May and Arthur Bryant in full on throwback mode, with Hall of Mirrors being set in 1969, and trying desperately to slow down my reading and swallow up each and every delicious word.

It’s definitely my favourite of the series so far, mainly because it’s one of my favourite styles of tale.  Hall of Mirrors is what Fowler calls a ‘precinct’ novel (as was White Corridor).  Everything happens in a limited space and time.  In this case an old manor house, a flooded and a closed off village, alongside a small cast of vivid characters, and of course the requisite murder.

I adored meeting younger versions of Bryant and May, and seeing the beginnings of some of their well known idiosyncrasies.  It was also fun to meet some of the earlier generations of staff at the PCU, names you will be familiar with from earlier novels but have only met fleetingly.

All of this makes Hall of Mirrors as amazing a read to satisfy the most ardent of followers, whilst making the entire series completely accessible to anyone new to Bryant and May, because it can be read and enjoyed as a completely standalone novel.  If you are new to these pair, I’m sure you will be hooked, and more than pleased to know there are another 14 books you can catch up with!

Highly recommended by me.

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