20 December, 2013

#BookReview :: The Invisible Code: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery (Bryant & May #10) by Christopher Fowler

When a young woman is found dead in the pews of St. Bride’s Church—alone and showing no apparent signs of trauma—Arthur Bryant assumes this case will go to the Peculiar Crimes Unit, an eccentric team tasked with solving London’s most puzzling murders. Yet the city police take over the investigation, and the PCU is given an even more baffling and bewitching assignment.
Called into headquarters by Oskar Kasavian, the head of Home Office security, Bryant and May are shocked to hear that their longtime adversary now desperately needs their help. Oskar’s wife, Sabira, has been acting strangely for weeks—succumbing to violent mood swings, claiming an evil presence is bringing her harm—and Oskar wants the PCU to find out why. And if there’s any duo that can deduce the method behind her madness, it’s the indomitable Bryant and May.
When a second bizarre death reveals a surprising link between the two women’s cases, Bryant and May set off on a trail of clues from the notorious Bedlam hospital to historic Bletchley Park. And as they are drawn into a world of encrypted codes and symbols, concealed rooms and high-society clubs, they must work quickly to catch a killer who lurks even closer than they think.

The Invisible Code, is the tenth standalone book in the ‘Peculiar Crimes Unit’ Series, but the first one that I got my hands on thanks to Netgalley. It is always better to read the books in a series in order to be able to see the main characters being introduced and their growth over the period, but then it is not always possible. I usually do not mind picking up standalones of a series from here and there – but in this case I so wish I had the chance to read the books in order from the beginning because the protagonists are such characters that make you want to see their journey throughout.

Arthur Bryant and John May are part of a self-sufficient Peculiar Crimes Unit that pick up, yes, peculiar cases that the other departments cannot solve and approach them in their own unique way. They are not the most popular branch around and are always under scrutiny with constant pressure of being shut down. When another peculiar case comes up, Bryant wants a chance to work on it where a woman trying to avoid annoying children, walks into a church and keels over and dies. But the case is beyond their reach and when Oskar Kasavian, the head of Home Office security and long-time adversary of the PCU needs their help with a sensitive issue, Bryant uses the opportunity to leverage his way into the other case as well. Oskar’s wife has been behaving oddly and when another body turns up, the two seemingly unrelated cases suddenly become vital to each other in order to be solved. 

In the era of NCIS/CSI/Person of Interest/Almost Human, where advanced technology plays a crucial role, PCU is almost like a walk back into the black and white era. Unconventional in their ways, according to the current trend anyway, May & Bryant stand out like a sore thumb. But it is also what makes their story much more interesting to read. I absolutely adored Bryant and his quirky nature and May’s people skills more than makes up for Bryant’s lack of it. They are a team - more than a detective and sidekick. The plot is simple yet intricate and consuming. Then there’s the author’s unmatched style of narration that rounds up the story so well.

Awesome and a must read for all Sherlock Holmes & Hercule Poirot fans.

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