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by Christopher Fowler
Bantam, May 2007
352 pages
ISBN: 0553804502

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Raymond Land, acting unit chief of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, decides to close down the unit for a week in mid-February to carry out some much needed repairs. (He's been acting head since the early 1970s, when he was sent there as a temporary measure). Arthur Bryant and John May, the very senior detectives who are the heart of the unit, immediately plan on taking the week off. Or rather, Bryant convinces May to drive to Devon with him to an international spiritualists convention.

Oswald Finch, the unit pathologist, is about to retire, but he is having second thoughts about it. He's almost as old as Bryant and May, who started with the unit during World War II. Finch wants to retire, as he is tired of the practical jokes always played on him and the lack of respect, but he realizes he has not much to do if he quits. Giles Kershaw, the unit's forensic scientist, expects to become pathologist on Finch's retirement, but his request for this position is turned down.

The body of a young girl is brought to him for autopsy. Later that day, when Kershaw goes to the morgue to talk to Finch, he finds him dead in the locked room. Bryant and May have gone to Devon. In fact, they have gone off the highway, near Buckfast, taking back roads and it has started to snow. They are on the edge of Dartmoor but the snow has become so deep that they have to stop and wait for the weather to abate so they, and the 20-odd other vehicles in the line, can continue their journey.

Detective Sergeant Janice Longbright, whose mother had been the original office manager of the unit during World War II, finds herself in charge. Bryant and May are gone andFinch in dead in a room for which only four keys are available. The death is suspicious. He has a bruise on his neck and another on his chest. A minor Royal Princess is going to visit the unit the next day, and the continuance of the unit will depend on her report.

There's also another classic locked room mystery among those stranded on the Dartmoor road. A woman is being stalked by a young man, and Bryant and May get involved in that one also.

Arthur and John keep in touch with the office by cell phone, giving hints to DS Longbright so she can solve the murder in time for the royal visit, and also manage to find the culprit on the highway. In WHITE CORRIDOR, you get two locked room mysteries in one engaging book (or maybe a locked room and a country house one). And you get to visit with a bunch of eccentrics for a few hours.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, December 2000

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