Tips On Reading The Bryant & May Novels

Bryant and May

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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.

6 comments on “Tips On Reading The Bryant & May Novels”

  1. Reuben says:

    I’m very glad there are plenty more B&M books to come, I’m sure I read there was only going to be 6 books and was quite sad after reading the 6th one.

  2. Cathy says:

    I recently found your books in the bookstore, and started with the first, knowing nothing about them. I am mainly a mystery reader, and I do loathe reading mystery series out of sequence, since so many of them are progressive storylines.

    Love, love, love Bryant & May.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    There is something special about Full Dark House: it seems bigger, more involved with the whole world and influenced by it. I read it first because it was the one handed me, but I agree that the order really doesn’t matter. A friend said she didn’t care for Bryant’s character and wasn’t drawn to the series, but how many detectives are warm, cuddly types? (Do I comment about Mr. ‘Smith’ up there? No, I’ll leave it.)

  4. J. Folgard says:

    Funny thing is, I actually began with The Water Room after it was favorably mentioned by Stephen Jones -then I remembered reading Rune, Spanky, Roofworld years before, translated in French. Now that I’m able to read in English I got a copy, loved it & began randomly giving away copies to my English-teaching colleagues. They seem to enjoy them & don’t mind the reading order much! This month I ordered five copies of the Victoria Vanishes paperback, one for me & the others as back-to-school gifts for september -thanks for the countless hours of fun, and I hope that compendium of missing cases is greenlit one day.

  5. Mike Cane says:

    However, the first B&M book — Full Dark House — has such a wonderful melancholy in it!

  6. Pat Nelson says:

    I am half way through listening my first, Bryant and May on the Loose, and am really enjoying it, so much so that when another one came up on offer I jumped at it. I will definitely be buying the rest

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