Favourite Bryant & May Book: The Verdict
Thank you everyone who responded to my call, which asked you for a favourite Bryant & May novel to help me determine where I’m taking the series next. I’m very grateful for the help, and although the results were very varied they did point in a certain direction – and were not at all what I had expected.
First, my own personal tastes, which run like this; ‘Full Dark House’ was the third or fourth time I’d used the characters but the first time I’d given them a book to themselves. The setting of the theatre worked well, the two-era plot was complex but not too hard to follow. ‘White Corridor’ (which hardly anyone voted for) was the simplest, purest and most fun to write, and has (for me at least) some terrific stuff in it. I do think the twist ending is clever, but the outcome of a murder mystery seems to be the least important part of the book, judging from your comments.
‘The Burning Man’ is topical and has my favourite ending, because I was able to make it funny and sad. ‘Strange Tide’ and ‘Wild Chamber’ are the pair with Arthur’s hallucinations, which I really enjoyed writing. I also think that both have good climaxes, especially the unusual opening and the lockdown in ‘Wild Chamber’, and Arthur and Maggie having to empty out their bags at the end. ‘Seventy Seven Clocks’ is my least favourite, for personal reasons involving its convoluted production.
So – you voted roughly in the publication order of the books, which worries me slightly and makes me wonder if I’m losing the plot (literally!) But then I suspect ‘Full Dark House’ came out as the most popular because it was the entry point for most readers. ‘The Water Room’ came up a lot, too. Lowest on the list were ‘On The Loose’ and ‘Ten Second Staircase’.
What am I to draw from this? Clearly that the faster, more rambunctious and chaotic books are preferred to the more toned and introspective ones. Simpler, more streamlined chains of events were favoured over the more complex plots. It seems you have a taste for mayhem, madness and murder – not surprising perhaps in a crime series. You also prefer ones in which characters are explored, rather than being fussed about who did it. I always say that readers remember the detectives and the set-up, not the criminal. The outlier here was Brooke, whose tastes came closer to reflecting my own.
As writers develop they always move away a little from the things that first attracted readers, because of the need to grow and experiment. In a way, I don’t have to do that because I have my other more experimental novels, like ‘Plastic’ and ‘The Sand Men’.
How to reconcile the two things you liked best in Bryant & May – the busier, faster, but more streamlined plots?
I’ve been thinking about this. The first book I’m going to present to my publisher based on this research is not going to put the PCU at risk of closure, but it will present them with their busiest-ever week, and take them all over London. The cases they tackle will be easier to unravel but will still cause a lot of grief. There will be two personal surprises involving the characters. I’m about to start work on a killer opening murder.
The second volume will be a new collection of cases. About the third and fourth books, haven’t a clue. I’ll shamelessly mine you for thoughts a bit nearer the time. Those four will take us to 2022, presuming I’m not dead by then. If I am, watch the BBC finally stump up for a TV series!