Bryant & May: London Bridge Is Falling Down: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery - book cover
  • Publisher : Bantam
  • Published : 07 Dec 2021
  • Pages : 464
  • ISBN-10 : 0593356217
  • ISBN-13 : 9780593356210
  • Language : English

Bryant & May: London Bridge Is Falling Down: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery

"[Fowler] takes delight in stuffing his books with esoteric facts. . . . They make for unbeatable fun."-The Guardian

The brilliant duo of Arthur Bryant and John May uncovers a nefarious plot behind the seemingly innocuous death of an old lady-and when the case leads them to London Bridge, it all comes down on the Peculiar Crimes Unit.

When ninety-one-year-old Amelia Hoffman dies in her top-floor flat on a busy London road, it's considered an example of what has gone wrong with modern society: she slipped through the cracks in a failing system.

But detectives Arthur Bryant and John May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit have their doubts. Mrs. Hoffman was once a government security expert, though no one can quite remember her. When a link emerges between the old lady and a diplomat trying to flee the country, it seems that an impossible murder has been committed.
Mrs. Hoffman wasn't the only one at risk. Bryant is convinced that other forgotten women with hidden talents are also in danger. And, curiously, they all own models of London Bridge.
With the help of some of their more certifiable informants, the detectives follow the strangest of clues in an investigation that will lead them through forgotten alleyways to the city's oldest bridge in search of a desperate killer.
But just when the case appears to be solved, they discover that Mrs. Hoffman was smarter than anyone imagined. There's a bigger game afoot that could have terrible consequences.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Christopher Fowler's ingenious novels featuring the Peculiar Crimes Unit

"Captivating."-The Seattle Times

"[Christopher Fowler's] ardent American following deserves to get much larger."-Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Fowler, like his crime-solvers, is deadpan, sly, and always unexpectedly inventive."-Entertainment Weekly

"Thrilling."-Chicago Tribune

"Unbeatable fun . . . [Fowler] takes delight in stuffing his books with esoteric facts."-The Guardian

"Dazzling."-The Denver Post

Readers Top Reviews

I had only read Oranges and Lemons of this series before and i thought that was not bad but not great. Whereas London Bridge is really great. Great characters, great plot which twists and turns and unexpected conclusion which I won't reveal. Terrific crime/spy/echoes from wartime. I paid quite a lot for this in terms of what I would normally pay for an ebook but it was worth every penny.
Well, we seem to have finally got to the end but this has been a wonderful series of books full of character, humour, and London lore. The layers of the past and present of the city are always there and overlapping with Bryant and May and this book is no exception. Thank you, Christopher Fowler, for so many enjoyable hours which now form part of the history of London in their own right.
E Evans
A man drunkenly mows down a young mother on a road crossing. An old woman is discovered dead in her flat having apparently died of neglect. Two events that appear to have nothing in common but form the heart of this story. Let’s be realistic if you’re reading this book then you are not a newcomer to this series (if you are a newcomer, go back immediately and read the entire series). All the usual twists and turns of the Bryant and May investigations are there - strange facts about London history; Arthur Bryant’s diverse and eccentric band of informants; the PCU frantically trying to prevent the unit being closed down; the Governments of both the UK and USA trying to turn a situation to their advantage. It does have the feel of a series coming to it’s end as the author ties up loose ends, engineers happy outcomes, and allows Raymond Land to discover his backbone. To be honest I got a bit confused in places as to who was doing what to whom, but it didn’t really matter, I was more than happy to go along with it all to the end. And speaking of the end - it will be a long time before I forgive the author for that one.
Once more, the PCU’s very existence is at stake. The Home Office have run out of patience with their disregard for contemporary policing methods and have sounded the death knell. Of course, this is covered ground for Arthur Bryant. He just needs to find an angle. When an old lady is discovered dead, all signs point to her being a victim of the system. She has simply fallen between the gaps. Happens all the time. But there is more to this old lady than her rather ignominious death. For she is, or was, a keeper of secrets. And Arthur Bryant loves unearthing secrets. More to the point, her death is just the sort of quirky case that the PCU excels at. And so it is that Arthur, John May and their merry band work the clues all whilst trying to keep their jobs and to prove themselves yet again to their myopic paymasters. One element of the case has similarities to that of Anne Sacoolas; the wife of a US diplomat who was involved in a car crash which cost the life of a young Englishman. Rather than stay in the UK and face justice, Sacoolas hotfooted it to the States, relying on her husband’s diplomatic immunity to get her off the hook of any legal proceedings. Of course, there is far more to the story and as is always the case with a B&M novel, you are left knowing more about London than you would ever think was possible from a crime fiction novel about two geriatric policemen with a ragtag crew that follow their every step; or try to. Aside from the plethora of trivia and arcane knowledge that Fowler delivers in every book, the wider picture is one of loyalty, kindness and a reminder that we should never take anyone or their opinions for granted. As Bryant himself discovers in this particular novel, we so often look but don’t see. As the title suggests, the core of this story is centred around London Bridge. Although London Bridge may have an air of “always the bridesmaid and never the bride” about it, when compared to glitzy and flamboyant Tower Bridge, it arguably offers a far more interesting backstory and, naturally, if you want to learn of it, you’ll have far more fun doing so in Mr Fowler’s hands than you would in firing up a search engine.Interestingly, LB did once have a central drawbridge that could enable tall ships to sail upstream at high tide. And apart from being sold to an American in 1968, the bridge, at one point, boasted around 200 houses and shops on it. And then there are the heads on spikes. So, do Bryant and May solve the case and save the day for the PCU. You’ll have to read this wonderful novel to find out.
B. Abramson
After two below par volumes Christopher Fowler returns to his best form in this final (?) Bryant & May novel. As ever, the plot is ridiculous, incredible, and entirely beside the point. John May has a larger role here than of late but not by much and nowhere close to his involvement in the early novels. I wonder why that is. Also the other PCU team members make only brief appearances. This is Arthur Bryant center stage. To a certain extent Fowler's plotting is similar to that of another fine author, Robert Goddard: our plodding hero makes mistake after mistake facing a nearly omniscient and invisible opponent but, after a miraculous last-second escape from certain death, triumphs. You read these works for the characters (even though the persistent stupidity of several make you want to hit them over the head with the book), for the wit, for the vibrant and exquisite use of the language, and, above all, for the descriptions of and recondite facts about London. Tim Goodman performs the B&M audiobook series brilliantly maintaining distinctive and perfectly appropriate voices for each character across 20 books. He is a pleasure to listen to. However, he does make a number of pronunciation mistakes. In particular, Aloysius is pronounced a-loo-ish-us and crocheted is crow-shayed (Tim gets this right on the third attempt). And no American has ever spoken in the accents he adopts (I know, I live there). Hugh Laurie gets it right. The ending is poignant especially in the light of Christopher Fowler's own serious illness. GNOM

Short Excerpt Teaser

Chapter 1

The Girl on the Crossing

May in Regent's Park could put a spring in the step of a corpse.

Crimson and saffron flowerbeds, enamelled lawns, fountains glittering beneath an azure sky. Twelve thousand roses in Queen Mary's Garden, blossoming in a riotous display of colour that was positively vulgar. The month brought forth scented air and warmth to the back of the neck.

Sammi Jansome's hand hurt. She had spent the previous afternoon slicing lemons and her knife had slipped. The lemon juice had got under the dressing and made her wince every time she lifted a tray. She'd had to stop and buy some waterproof bandages in Boots but there'd been a queue and now she was running later than usual. Usually she wore her black Adidas trainers and changed in the staff dressing room, but this morning she had snapped a lace while retying it on the tube and had been forced to don her pumps.

She cut through the park from its lower corner near Baker Street, heading for her shift at the US ambassador's residence. Winfield House stood behind fifteen-foot-high black iron gates that appeared decorative but could withstand a missile attack. The bland chocolate box of a building on the north-west side of the park had been commissioned by the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, who had lived there with her husband, Cary Grant. Once it had provided hunting grounds for boar and deer. Now its marquees held smug receptions and charity fundraisers in the vast manicured garden.

Sammi was the toastmistress responsible for charging glasses. There were rarely fewer than two hundred guests in the watery green garden room. The champagne glasses had to be half filled before the room was opened, then topped up as they were handed out.

Right now the sergeant-at-arms would be ensuring that the same geometric volume of glassware was available on every table. Someone else would set out individual chocolates, spacing them equally across the tables. The treats were decorated with Belgian fondant, each dressed with a tiny red satin sash like Christmas tree ornaments. They hid the fact that no expensive savoury canapés were being served this afternoon. The Grade I tuna had been set aside for tomorrow's event with the Japanese ambassador.

Her task was simple and exact, and slotted in with a hundred small tasks performed by other employees to form a seamless whole. The ambassador's residence had too many staff and too much protocol. Its laws were as rigid and inviolable as those at a Tudor court.

Sammi couldn't wait to leave her job, but at least it made up for the chaos of her home life. Having to stash her daughter in a dilapidated Bayswater hotel room while she waited for new accommodation was tough on both of them. She always warned Doto to stay in her room because some of the residents looked untrustworthy, especially the badly shaved men who hung around the lobby.

Sammi saw that she was four minutes behind schedule and quickened her step, heading towards the barrier of clipped hedges that marked the park's Outer Circle. A sudden breeze swept over the parklands in a twisting undertow that ruffled the feathers of swans and ducks, fluttering the new foliage on the trees.

The park's curving road was among the quietest and most beautiful in the capital. Sammi wondered if she would be able to escape today's event by eight. She needed to press her uniform, get Doto's dinner, pay off all of her outstanding bills. Time out of work needed to be minutely planned.


The black and grey Daimler was a dinosaur of a vehicle, its heavy polished panels fronted with an immense chrome radiator grille and six lamps. It was travelling at surprising speed around the park's outer perimeter.

Larry Cranston had a naturally bad-tempered outlook coupled with the twitchy impatience of someone in a long queue. Although he thought a lot, very little came of it, and right now his mind was far away.

He needed to make some big money fast, before his debts were called in. There were some people you could delay paying back, like your tailor or your vintner, and others you simply could not mess around. He ran through a list of names, trying to recall how his credibility stood with each of them. The importer from Guangzhou had seemed amenable but could turn nasty. He knew some very unpleasant people. What was his name?

Cranston failed to see the crossing because he was trying to remember how much interest he owed the importer. If he had looked up he would have seen a small woman in a hurry, a flash of red sweater, short black hair, a blue nylon backpack. His nearside headlamp caught a jeaned leg and snagged the material, spinning something under the front wheel of the car so that one moment she was on t...