News reaches me from Kate Miciak, my tireless New York editor, that ‘Full Dark House’, Mr Bryant and Mr May’s first outing, has just gone into its fourth reprint. While I’m pleased, I’m also a bit puzzled by readers who always start at the beginning of the series, especially when the book is not representative of the series as a whole. So here are my tips for getting maximum enjoyment from the volumes, for both newbies and those with experience of the characters.
1. Although the books progress in a linear fashion, they don’t have to be read in sequence at all. In fact, I would recommend starting with ‘The Water Room’.
2. There are two ‘Odd Men Out’ in the series. The first, ‘Full Dark House’, is a flashback to the characters’ youthful days, with different characters. The third, ‘Seventy Seventy Clocks’, is period-set in the 1970s, and is also more fantastical than the other novels. This is because the first six books cover different styles of murder mystery, and ‘Seventy Seven Clocks’ is a throwback to a 1920s style of British thriller.
3. The rest of the characters surrounding Bryant & May start to get more page-time later in the series, so if you enjoy reading about others in the Peculiar Crimes Unit, head for ‘Ten Second Staircase’ and beyond.
4. ‘Full Dark House’ was not, strictly speaking, the first Bryant & May book, but the fourth. I had used the characters elsewhere in my books, most notably in ‘Soho Black’ and ‘Rune’.
5. The first six books were designed as a set, and so there are all kinds of hidden connections between the stories that you’ll only notice looking back. The estimable publisher Ian Martin Smith has spotted trickery within these connections that I hide in the stories for the hell of it. Consequently, there’s an argument for starting with Book 6, ‘The Victoria Vanishes’, which operates as a kind of overview, and working backwards!
6. The next set, starting with ‘Bryant & May On The Loose’, will form a fresh set of interlinked books, and will be more consistent in style now that the main areas of murder mystery have been covered (I decided to skip one sub-genre; Crippen the staff cat does not solve a crime and never will). In this second set, the location of the PCU has changed. I may add a compendium of missing cases if I can convince a publisher that readers still enjoy short stories.