Bryant & May – On The Loose
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Bryant and May On The Loose

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The sleek metal cylinder was a little over a foot long, snub-nosed and topped with an inverted V of steel. It weighed about a kilogram, and the section with the fin pattern had been painted green. It hung in the air for a moment after being released, almost as if it had become weightless, then began to roll down through the thin low clouds. It had split away from the other incendiary bombs released from their rack, and now that its carrier had already droned past it fell silently, accompanied only by the soft whispering of the wind. 

Below, the clouds parted and the brown curves of the terraced streets came into focus. Grey slate roofs, orange chimneypots, scruffy little back gardens, a child playing on the pavement with a red toy car, the details stood out in sharp relief. It all seemed so silent and undisturbed; there had been no warning siren. 

The mundane urban topography came clearer and closer, houses on wide cobbled streets that curved in arching paisley patterns beside the shining stripe of the canal. Makeshift shelters, chicken sheds, lines full of washing, outside toilets, the distance between the bomb and the ground closed fast as it spiralled down towards the crowded houses of King's Cross. 

A sudden wind buffeted the cylinder and shifted its direction a little to the right. There were two terraced homes just below it now. The nose of the bomb swung first over one, then the other, as if trying to decide which it would hit. 

Long regarded an anachronism and a thorn in the side of its superiors, the Peculiar Crimes Unit is to be disbanded. For octogenarian detectives Arthur Bryant and John May, it seems retirement is now the only option. But then a headless body is found in a freezer, and on the perimeter of a massive construction site near King's Cross, a gigantic figure has been spotted - dressed in deerskin and sporting antlers made of knives and suddenly, with limited resources and very little time, the PCU are back in business...but what does all this have to do with a bomb that fell on the area during the Blitz?

What the critics say

Do yourself a favour and pick up a novel by Christopher Fowler. The author’s Bryant and May series is proving to be one of the quirkiest and most ingenious pleasures to be found in the genre: atmospheric, sardonically funny and craftily suspenseful.

Barry Forshaw,