Christopher Fowler

Bryant and May: London Bridge Is Falling Down

"...the annals of London will record him as one of the city’s most Capital writers of all. "


Who are the most invisible people in London? Old ladies. Amelia Hoffman is such one example, dead from malnutrition at 91, her body lying undiscovered for two weeks in her flat near King's Cross. It's only when she ends up on the slab of St Pancras' coroner Giles Kershaw that Amelia's life comes back into focus – and the attention of two relative striplings, octogenarian detectives Arthur Bryant and John May. When we left our heroes last time, at the end of 'Oranges and Lemons', the Peculiar Crimes Unit was about to be closed down, its premises upcycled into an artisanal coffee shop. But Unit Chief Raymond Land's last memo suggests a way of sticking a spanner into the Home Office's works – by having an unsolved case left on the books. When Arthur Bryant chooses to claim Amelia's apparently lonely end as the focus of ongoing investigations, it would seem the hand of fate has been directing him all along. For not only was Amelia's very profession one of invisibility but – as her biography gradually unravels in scenes of diabolical murder and desperate trans-Atlantic espionage – it appears she has been concealing her possession of the upper hand all along…

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Somewhat incredibly, it's 20 years since we were first introduced to Bryant and May – so it seems only appropriate that the secret history of the PCU itself should be woven into the plot of the highest-stakes game they have yet to play. The story of Amelia Hoffman and her two accomplices in state-trained deception, Annie Wynn-Jones and Angela Carey, is the most complex and corkscrew plot their fiendishly clever creator has ever come up with. As devotees have come to expect, it is one that shines its torch of enquiry into the most well-concealed nooks and crannies of London's labyrinthine past, this time in the form of London Bridge itself – a structure that made the Capital's earliest beginnings possible; once displayed the heads of such 'traitors' as Thomas' Moore and Cromwell, hosted the frost fairs caused by the manner of its construction and then disappeared and reappeared again in the unlikeliest of settings. Tragically, it is also the final case for crime fiction's most brilliantly original dynamic duo, and one that, as has been hinted at in their previous three adventures, takes the series full circle. To do justice to Bryant and May's work, and Christopher Fowler's achievement in getting it all down in print, the annals of London will record him as one of the city's most Capital writers of all.

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