A mysterious phantom haunts a creepy old theater in an apparent attempt to scare the performers and keep the latest production from starting. Does that sound like a Scooby Doo episode, or is it just me?
“I’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!” Or in this case, meddling English detectives instead of talking dogs and damn dirty hippies.
Actually, this was a pretty dark and well done mystery with an intriguing concept and structure. Arthur Bryant and John May have been detectives for London’s Peculiar Crime Unit for over 60 years. However, when Bryant is killed in a bomb blast that destroys their offices, the clues May follows indicate that Bryant was looking into their first case together.
In 1940, a string of grisly and bizarre murders are occurring in a theater getting ready to launch a controversial production. Since the rest of England is slightly busy dealing with the Blitz and the imminent invasion of the island by Germany, the case is pawned off onto the PCU and its understaffed group of under aged and inexperienced detectives. Brilliant but eccentric Bryant thinks that normal police methods won’t solve the crime while the more practical May tries to keep Bryant from venturing too far away from plausible explanations. In the present day, elderly John May tries to solve the murder of his friend.
The parallel stories of Bryant and May in 1940, and May’s investigation in the present was a great idea. And setting a murder mystery against the London Blitz is another terrific concept. More than one person notes that it seems slightly ridiculous to worry about a couple of murders when hundreds are being killed every night. But the British government wants a sense of calm and normalcy so it still frowns on someone offing their citizens. Even if they are just actors…
A good mystery with a dark sense of humor and an original setting, this was a fun read. My only real complaint is that as a native of Kansas City, the name Arthur Bryant is the name of a barbecue legend, restaurant and sauce here. So every time I read the name in this book, I instantly craved some beef brisket. And now I am HUNGRY!