The Burning Man/Bryant and May – London – Christopher Fowler

burning man

Why a booktrail?

The series of Bryant and May returns with a bang and London is under siege from every angle imaginable.

Story in a nutshell

London is under siege. Violent protests surrounding a banking crisis fill the streets, the anger is explosive and the conflict between the police and the rioters is about to come to a head.

But then a young homeless man is found burned to death. At first it might seem like a tragic accident but could it be more sinister? Could an opportunistic killer be using the chaos to exact revenge in some way?

The Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in since the crimes and the possible reasons behind it are simply to horrible and weird to think about. But will they be able to halt the chaos?

Place and setting

Square Mile Crutched Friars avenue, near Fenchurch street and the railway bridge where the man is found dead. The Finsbury private bank is also here.  Threadneedle street the home of the bankers St Paul’s Cathedral scene of the riots St Pancras Bryant investigates in Camley Street which is close to St  Pancras church - one of the most ancient sites of Christian worship in England and the ‘bizarre Victorian gingerbread house that set beside it” Trafalgar Square The scene of the Death of capitalism marches with protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks.
Square Mile
Crutched Friars avenue, near Fenchurch street and the railway bridge where the man is found dead. The Finsbury private bank is also here.
Threadneedle street
the home of the bankers
St Paul’s Cathedral
scene of the riots
St Pancras
Bryant investigates in Camley Street which is close to St Pancras church – one of the most ancient sites of Christian worship in England and the ‘bizarre Victorian gingerbread house that set beside it”
Trafalgar Square
The scene of the Death of capitalism marches with protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks.

The Peculiar Crimes Unit, housed in a ‘awkwardly trapezoidal four floor Victorian corner building’s in Caledonian Road, is one of the most interesting places in London and elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May work from here in a city increasingly difficult to police.

The Burning Man soon becomes a murder investigation in which, as the name suggests, incendiary methods of execution are used. But when the investigation takes an apocalyptic turn, that’s when London and the history, the essence of the city really comes into its own.  Mix together mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes and you have one explosive mix indeed.

The great fire of London

Indeed Bryant himself stands and gives a brief history lesson of the city at the start of proceedings –

In Tudor times, London was still a box. It was tightly contained by walls of three sides, the fourth being the River Thames”

“And this is how it would have stayed without the conflagration that transformed it, the Great Fire of London”

The theme of the fire and of the riots really comes to be a major part of the investigation which Bryant and May use to full effect – how history can help to explain and clarify the present. Whether religion or orchestrated chaos, it’s about the breaking up of the system in London and in cities elsewhere. And in their midst,  a man on a quest for a protest of his own – the essence of Guy Fawkes seems to have returned.

London is a money factory

The Square Mile – the centre of this money factory is a bane of contention for Byrant as it represents the inequality of the people in the city rich and poor and the confidence that the PCU offers to all regardless of who they are or what they have. They provide stability and peace of mind in increasingly unpredictable times.”  running a covert operation will mean no social media or drawing attention to themselves. The bankers who live in Threadneedle street have returned from their holidays in Tuscany to riots all around them

Riots at St Paul’s

The riots which surround landmarks such as St Paul’s, the bank of England and Cheapside. London burning due to the ‘thugs of Threadneedle street’ as the bankers are called.

Bookish musings

An interesting premise really got me into this book and kept me turning the pages. This is a tale of how a city, the essence and history of a city is blended and interwoven into a story of murder.

Bryant and May have been a formidable duo for several books now but this one really stood out for the way London is used as both a character and a setting. The history lessons never felt as such and helped show the city in a changing light – the financial side, the riots and the history of Guy Fawkes is a great mix and fascinating in many ways.

The murders although of course gruesome were intriguing and I swear I could smell the acrid smell in the air of the smoke swirling the streets as Bryant and May woke to a new day of investigation.

Dark mysterious and dingy streets – and a duo that keep on getting better.

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