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LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN
by Christopher Fowler
Bantam, December 2021
464 pages
$38.00 CAD
ISBN: 0593356217


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I always look forward to the release by Christopher Fowler of the latest offering in his Bryant and May series of novels. Chronicling the exploits of elderly sleuths Arthur Bryant and John May (yes, their names actually are taken from the matchbox company) together with the other denizens of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit the pair are charged with solving the most intractable mysteries ever to baffle the more orthodox forces of law and order in the Big Smoke.

LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN follows their latest adventure, which hangs on the fates of three elderly women who, many decades earlier, had worked together in the bowels of British Intelligence. One of them dies; not unusual perhaps, given her age, to which her death is summarily attributed. But Arthur Bryant takes umbrage at the notion that merely living to an advanced age can be a cause of death, and notices a souvenir model of the famed London Bridge near the site of her demise. When a second model of the same bridge is discovered in the flat of another member of the trio it suggests that an element more sinister than merely the passage of time is at work.

Not surprisingly the McGuffin in this intricate tale involves a secret the elderly ladies harboured from their intelligence work decades earlier. Throw in the machinations of a hapless and decidedly average American former FBI agent anxious to capitalize on this information for personal gain, and the heavy-handedness of a London-based CIA agent equally determined to get her own hands on the same information, and you have the formula for Fowler's latest madcap adventure.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Fowler novel unless his readers were treated to a plethora of obscure historical references and his signature arcane wordplay, each designed to challenge the sanity of his many fans. So in London Bridge readers will encounter such little-known terms as scrufulous, quadirolgy, ginnel, ullage, lagnosia, jentaculum, celerity, bibulous, fumeroles, tumescence, ultacrepidarian, sigil, josser, and coulrophilia. It all makes for a heady mixture combining a fast-paced plot with an agglomeration of oddballs that could have been taken from a Monty Python sketch, and interwoven for good measure with such Simon Schama-like historical references as the historical origins of Victorian lamp-post designs as they relate to the amorous interests of a member of the British nobility.

Quirky, witty, wonderfully atmospheric, and entertaining from its opening line ("May in Regent's Park could put a spring in the step of a corpse"), LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN will delight Christopher Fowler's many fans, and appeal to readers looking for something unique and challenging in the annals of crime fiction. Absolutely brilliant.

In addition to being a reviewer with over six hundred reviews to his credit, Jim Napier is the author of Legacy and Ridley's War, in the British-based Colin McDermott mystery series.

Reviewed by Jim Napier, December 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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