‘Wild Chamber’ Is Out In Paperback Now

Bryant and May Books

It got pleasing reviews in hardback* so here it is now in handy portable form. ‘Wild Chamber’ (hiding behind the new hardback out in three weeks) is the 15th Bryant & May mystery in a series I hope to get up to twenty (I’m currently working on the seventeenth). Here’s how I came to write it.

After exploring the Thames in ‘Strange Tide’ I wanted to write about another underrated part of every city, but especially London – its ‘lungs’. London is badly polluted – Euston Road, which I have to walk along a stretch of every single day, is one of the most polluted roads in Europe – and the new glass boxes built beside these routes canyonise them, channeling the pollution so that it becomes denser. The only good news is that just one street away it dissipates fast, and that’s where London’s carefully planned green spaces come in.

But there are a lot of spaces ordinary Londoners like me never get to experience or even see. These are the many private communal gardens for which you need to be a nearby resident and keyholder. It seems ludicrous these days to have large green areas closed off to the public, but the idea is that they function as one big back garden for owners, for a London home without access to a garden is a sad one indeed. This is the private Mecklenburgh Square in Bloomsbury, which is protected by high walls so that you can’t even see in.

To me it seemed that a private square such as this would make a perfect setting for a ‘locked room’ type of mystery because it has limited access, with all the keys known. But I also wanted to say something about the public/private issues around access in London, so the book also gets a chance to make a social statement when an unscrupulous civil servant uses an attack in a park as an excuse to have councils start charging for parks. This is something the simultaneously profligate and cash-strapped burghers of Camden Council have long been trying to implement (that’s right, kiddies, UK politicians aren’t much better on the left or the right).

I based my fictional square on a real one, actually a crescent in Holland Park called Royal Crescent Gardens (below), for which my friend Leslie has a key, as she lives in a flat on the road. Most of these private spaces are fiercely protected by committees of borderline OCD Nimbys whose job it is to make life unpleasant for everyone, but at least that way the spaces do remain beautiful – if mainly unseen.

So a murder occurs and Bryant & May get to dig around in the greenery, as well as staging their first (disastrous, of course) crime scene re-enactment.

It’s no spoiler to reveal that in the second half of the novel I reverse the idea of wide open spaces to have the Peculiar Crimes Unit shut up inside their building, something that allowed me to have a lot of fun in the writing, and I hope that comes across!

Here’s a synopsis for the book…

‘Wild Chamber’, In which Mr May Takes A Walk In The Park, And Mr Bryant Gets Lost In The Wilderness

            Our story begins at the end of an investigation, as the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit race to catch a killer near London Bridge Station in the rain, not realising that they’re about to cause an unseen drama just yards away from the crime scene. The incident will have repercussions for them all…

            One year later, in an exclusive London crescent, a woman walks her dog – but she’s being watched. When she’s found dead the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. Why? Because the method of death is odd, the gardens are locked, the killer had no way in or out and the dog has disappeared.

            At first it looks like a typical case for Bryant & May, but further mysteries surround the victim – a missing husband, a lost nanny and a killer who could strike again…

            Arthur Bryant investigates the hidden history of London’s ‘wild chambers’ – its extraordinary parks and gardens, while John May and his staff (now with a new member) find they’ve caused a national scandal. If no-one is safe then all of London’s open spaces must be shut at night, and that’s just what an ambitious politician with an agenda wants…

            With the members of the PCU placed under house arrest, only Arthur Bryant remains free – but can one old codger catch the criminal and save the unit before it’s too late?

*’If you love an intriguing murder plot, sparkling humour, wonderful scene-setting and brilliantly stylish writing, then get hold of a copy of this. You won’t be sorry.’ – Booklover.com

8 comments on “‘Wild Chamber’ Is Out In Paperback Now”

  1. Jan says:

    Open Squares Day – some time in June I think – is the day many squares are open to the public. It’s held over a weekend and there’s lots of really interesting garden squares participating. One thing I dunno if I have mentioned to you before Chris weird as it may seem a few of these places have almost “adopted” a few homeless people. Providing a relatively safe place for the homeless to live on a pretty regular basis. Not universal policy but just ad hoc arrangements a few places have come up with. There’s a few squares containing mounds many of which were created at the time the squares garden was created. A couple just might be a lot older.
    In addition to Open Squares look out for the yellow book NGS open gardens scheme. Gardens open up for charity. Sometimes whole streets, squares or out here in the sticks whole villages open up. Theres always lovely home made cakes -oh and same applies to Open Squares Day.

  2. Barry Wilson says:

    I agree.

  3. Denise Treadwell says:

    Please give a cat importance in your new book and witches too.Just found out that Rebecca Nurse , was baptized in Great Yarmouth.The famous Salem witch trials, not born there.!

  4. Brian Evans says:

    You’ve only turn the corner from dreadful and polluted Euston Road into Judd St to notice the difference. Even the traffic noise suddenly seems a lot less.

    It is amazing it has even been considered to charge for parks. Aren’t we all supposed to be encouraged to get more exercise etc? What a bunch of hypocrites! You are right about the politics as well. It was a Labour council in the Wirral that closed some libraries a few years ago. They didn’t blame the government of course, as it was also Labour, under Tory Blair.

    Being a cheapskate I waited till the kindle price dropped (of Wild Chamber) to £4.95 which it just has. I bought it yesterday and started it last night in bed. So far, so good!

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Public facilities, public access and supported by the taxes so no admission can be charged. I remember thinking my grandmother would be horrified by the parking fees now being charged in our Stanley Park. She was very clear on the universal access concept. Most of us feel that if we’re going to run a car to the park we should pay to park it (as it were). Our little neighbourhood parks don’t have even fences, let alone gates and that’s as it should be. Stand firm, ye citizens of Britain, subjects of the Crown!

  6. Ian Luck says:

    I got my copy on Saturday, and finished it yesterday. Another great, absorbing read. I love the character of Harry Prayer – I mentally pictured him as looking like Alfie Bass, by the way. Bryant’s baiting of Rosa, and his hallucination of the Queen, were hilarious. Please find a way to end the career of the slug-like Leslie Faraday in the most ignominious way possible. He strikes me as someone so utterly useless, he’s been ‘moved sideways’ so many times, he must be up against the door marked ‘EXIT’ by now. Maybe a situation that B&M could extricate him from, but are stopped from doing so by a petty, but immovable rule Faraday himself put in motion. A great read though, and I can’t wait for the next. Excellent.

  7. Roger says:

    The ultimate in well-beyond-the-border OCD Nimbyism occurred a few years ago when a man was prosecuted for playing what might have been football in a private garden with his small child with a square object which would definitely have been a ball if it was round not square. In a case worthy of Albert Haddock, a series of trials took place to determine whether a square object which would definitely have been a ball if it was round not square actually was a ball according to the law.
    According to George Orwell, the removal of the metal railings on private squares in WWII was one of the things regarded as a definite sign of the End of Civilisation as the English Middle Class Knew it.

  8. Jan says:

    Strange thing was for some reason those railings were never actually used. Just became a propaganda thing.

    Been thinking about these garden squares a bit today and one of the most interesting squares I ever visited was. Hereford Square just south of Gloucester Road station. If you leave Gloucs Road tube and turn S into Gloucester Road -heading toward old Brompton Road – and staying on the W footway just after Wetherby Place SW7 is Hereford Square with its relatively small central garden . Very attractive not completely surrounded by blocks of mansion flats as many of the Kensington garden squares are. Being situated next to Gloucester road which runs immediately to the squares East.

    During WW2 there were many US soldiers billeted nearby in Queensgate and it’s surrounding terraces (and probably in underground accommodations beneath the National History museum, Hyde Park and Imperial college.) Well these guys used to play baseball in Hereford Square gardens. Strange to think of these young fellows such a long way from home playing baseball in a Kensington garden. Going off to take part in ‘D’ day a few weeks or months later. Poor lads.

    Another interesting thing about the square if you look over to the East side of Gloucester Road from the garden or the W or E footways of Gloucester Road the third or fourth detached house South of the j/ w Stanhope Gardens well that’s a house J.M.Barrie used to visit and which he used as the model for the Darlings house in Peter Pan. Beautiful mullioned window above the stairs and next to that the window of what he imagined as Wendy’s room where Peter and Tinkerbell flew into the house. I did know the number in Gloucs Road once upon a time but it’s gone now. Might have given it Chris but cannot really remember.

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