Book Review: Bryant & May: Peculiar London (Bryant & May: Peculiar Crimes Unit #18.5) by Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Pages: Hardcover, 496
Source: NetGalley

Thinking of a jaunt to England? Let Arthur Bryant and John May, London’s oldest police detectives, show you the oddities behind the façades of the city in this tongue-in-cheek travel guide.

The best fun is running all over the city with these amiable partners. —The New York Times Book Review, on Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour

It’s getting late. I want to share my knowledge of London with you, if I can remember any of it.

So says Mr. Arthur Bryant. He and John May are the nation’s oldest serving detectives. Who better to reveal its secrets? Why does this rainy, cold, gray city capture so many imaginations? Could its very unreliability hold the key to its longevity?

The detectives are joined by their boss, Raymond Land, and some of their most disreputable friends, each an argumentative and unreliable expert in their own dodgy field.

Each character gives us a short tour of odd buildings, odder characters, lost venues, forgotten disasters, confusing routes, dubious gossip, illicit pleasures, and hidden pubs. They make all sorts of connections and show us why it’s almost impossible to separate fact from fiction in London.

One would think that it is impossible to out-peculiar Arthur Bryant and his friends? acquaintances? strays?, but London, in all its glory, manages to do just that, in this travel guide of the arcane. No crimes are solved, but the interplay between Bryant, May, the PCU staff, and all the personalities we’ve seen throughout the series, along with the wealth of knowledge about London, past and present, make this a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile read.

It’s substantial, almost 500 pages, and chockfull of anecdotes and stories. I expected to like it, but to maybe feel disappointed that it wasn’t one of their twisty, turny mysteries. No fear, this is delightful, and every bit as quirky as you’d expect.

The chapters are divided into areas and/or topics, and don’t necessarily need to be read in order. This is a book to be savored. You might be able to read it in one sitting, but my advice would be to take your time. Get some tea, get some biscuits, read a little, then check out the references for more information.

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