‘Wild Chamber’ Is Out In Paperback Now
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