ENGLAND’S FINEST (Bryant & May Short Stories) by Christopher Fowler | Blog Tour Review

Published by Doubleday
Available in ebook and Hardback (31 October 2019)
320 pages
Source: Copy received from publisher for review


The Peculiar Crimes Unit has solved many extraordinary cases over the years, but some were hushed up and hidden away. Until now.

Arthur Bryant remembers these lost cases as if they were yesterday. Unfortunately, he doesn’t remember yesterday, so the newly revealed facts could come as a surprise to everyone, including his exasperated partner John May.

Here, then, is the truth about the Covent Garden opera diva and the seventh reindeer, the body that falls from the Tate Gallery, the ordinary London street corner where strange accidents keep occurring, the consul’s son discovered buried in the unit’s basement, the corpse pulled from a swamp of Chinese dinners, a Hallowe’en crime in the Post Office Tower, and the impossible death that’s the fault of a forgotten London legend. All of the unit’s oddest characters are here, plus the detectives’ long-suffering sergeant Janice Longbright gets to reveal her own forgotten mystery. These twelve crimes must be solved without the help of modern technology, mainly because nobody knows how to use it. Expect misunderstood clues, lost evidence, arguments about Dickens, churches, pubs and disorderly conduct from the investigative officers they laughingly call ‘England’s Finest’!


My thanks to Emma of Damppebbles Blog Tours for the tour invite and to the publisher for the lovely hardback copy to review.

If you are unfamiliar with the Christopher Fowler’s fictional Peculiar Crimes Unit and its two leading  Detective Chief Inspectors Arthur Bryant and John May, then this collection of 12 short stories is an ideal place to start.   I’ve previously read one of the full length novels and the familiarity of being in the company of the eccentric Bryant and his very patient colleague May, was a delight.

Overseeing the PCU is Unit Chief Raymond Land, a rather ineffective individual most of the time, who bumbles around issuing orders which mostly get ignored by his staff because he doesn’t usually understand what’s going on. Arthur Bryant’s age is unknown but he is long past normal retirement age, has his own style of dress – usually oversized Harris Tweed coats and scarves but is a font of knowledge and despite his advancing years and failing memory seems to know everything about everything.  John May is just slightly younger, has much more of a personable manner and is the antidote to Bryant’s natural grumpiness.  There are a whole cast of supporting characters that make up this motley unit, some of which get their chance to shine during the course of the book.

The twelve stories vary in length and in timeline – from post war to modern time  – moving from London’s Covent Garden to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania and involving all manner of crimes some of which sound quite fantastical and unbelievable until Arthur Bryant applies his rather weird and illogical way of crimesolving and then it all makes perfect sense!

Fowler’s writing is clever and witty with lots of interesting facts that come from Arthur Bryant, who is undoubtedly the star of the show. A serial curmudgeon, he can turn from being flippant one moment to someone with touching perception.

These Golden Age detectives might seem out of place in this modern age of crime fiction but as Bryant and May will show, they are still first class crime solvers, even without the aid of copious amounts of technology, and they will thoroughly entertain you as they do so. Long may they continue!


Christopher Fowler is the author of more than forty novels (sixteen of which feature the detectives Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit) and many short story collections. A multiple award-winner, including the coveted CWA ‘Dagger in the Library’, Chris has also written screenplays, video games, graphic novels, audio plays and two acclaimed memoirs, Paperboy and Film Freak. His most recent non-fiction book is The Book of Forgotten Authors. Chris divides his time between London’s King’s Cross and Barcelona. You can find out more by visiting his website and following him on Twitter.

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