Hello! Today I am so excited to be taking part in the Blog Tour for the latest book by one of my favourite authors and I thank Anne Cater for the opportunity.
BRYANT & MAY HALL OF MIRRORS by Christopher Fowler was published in hardback by Doubleday and eBook by Transworld Digital on 22nd March 2018
The year is 1969 and ten guests are about to enjoy a country house weekend at Tavistock Hall. But one amongst them is harbouring thoughts of murder. . . The guests also include the young detectives Arthur Bryant and John May – undercover, in disguise and tasked with protecting Monty Hatton-Jones, a whistle-blower turning Queen’s evidence in a massive bribery trial. Luckily, they’ve got a decent chap on the inside who can help them – the one-armed Brigadier, Nigel ‘Fruity’ Metcalf. The scene is set for what could be the perfect country house murder mystery, except that this particular get-together is nothing like a Golden Age classic. For the good times are, it seems, coming to an end. The house’s owner – a penniless, dope-smoking aristocrat – is intent on selling the estate (complete with its own hippy encampment) to a secretive millionaire but the weekend has only just started when the millionaire goes missing and murder is on the cards. But army manoeuvres have closed the only access road and without a forensic examiner, Bryant and May can’t solve the case. It’s when a falling gargoyle fells another guest that the two incognito detectives decide to place their future reputations on the line. And in the process discover that in Swinging Britain nothing is quite what it seems… So gentle reader, you are cordially invited to a weekend in the country. Expect murder, madness and mayhem in the mansion!
I have read most of Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May mysteries and I think this could now be one of my favourites from the whole series. I love Bryant and May, I love the 1960s and I love a country house murder mystery – result!
“If it’s a proper country house murder it needs to follow country house rules”
In fact, Hall of Mirrors is so much more than a modern take on the classic GAD country house murder mystery. Not only is it well written, superbly plotted and hilarious, it is very knowing and plays with the principles of the genre: it is pure joy from start to finish.
One of Fowler’s main strengths is obviously his characters and it is great from the get-go to be back with Bryant and May; it feels like meeting up with old and familiar (and crabby) friends.
‘Please, call me Mr Bryant.’”
I know we’ve seen an even younger Bryant and May before but it was good to see their totally believable 1969 selves: John being the ‘cool’, debonair ladies’ man and Bryant being… Well, only marginally less cantankerous than usual but with fewer wrinkles. Although it was nice to be reminded that there is a little vulnerability beneath the grumps and the scarf that is more evident in this 1960s version.
“‘This is so groovy,’ said May. ‘Can you not say that?’ asked Bryant, wincing. ‘I don’t know where you pick up these ghastly neologisms.’ ‘But it’s change, Arthur! You can smell change in the air.’ ‘I can smell hot dogs, incense and marijuana’”
I did miss Janice a little, but it was good to hear from Gladys again. Celeste was a (brief) joy, Monty was brilliantly grotesque and I particularly liked Pamela Claxon and Slade Wilson – to say nothing of Malcrida!
Part of the joy of Christopher Fowler’s books is his meticulous research and the resulting vivid sense of place. Some of the early chapters in Hall of Mirrors serve to bring the positives of the Swinging Sixties to life but later we enter the end-of-an-era decay of the country house ‘weekend party’: simultaneously both harking back to the GAD mysteries and contrasting it with the end of the boom period.
“To the people of Kent, transcendental meditation is something you do on the loo”
The descriptions of Camden, of Tavistock Hall and of the frustrations of a weekend in the countryside with no resources and a land battle taking place on your doorstep are all colourful, bringing the sights, sounds and smells to life. The story also makes reference to several real life crimes of the time and the early 20th Century, again adding some realism to the madness and highlighting the less positive sides to the era.
Another of Fowler’s strengths is his use of language and this in great shape in Hall of Mirrors, from Bryant and May’s word games, to the chapters being named after (mostly) 1960s hits and the wonderfully dry one liners throughout – usually courtesty of Bryant. You really need to take your time reading this as every line is a beautifully crafted joy.
“‘But you’re fully recovered? No mobility problems?’
‘I recently had trouble going through a turnstile with an accordion, but no.’”
As you can tell, I love this series and I really loved this book. Seriously, if you’ve not yet discovered the joy of Bryant and May: WHAT. ARE. YOU. WAITING. FOR?? Hall of Mirrors is the perfect entry point, or alternatively you could just buy the whole series.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC of Hall of Mirrors and thank you to Anne Cater for organising the Blog Tour.
About the author
Christopher Fowler is the author of more than forty novels (fifteen of which feature the detectives Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit) and short story collections. The recipient of many awards, including the coveted CWA ‘Dagger in the Library’, Chris has also written screenplays, video games, graphic novels, audio plays and two critically accalimed memoirs, Paperboy and Film Freak. His most recent book is The Book of Forgotten Authors, drawn from his ‘Invisible Ink’ columns in the Independent on Sunday. Chris divides his time between London’s King Cross and Barcelona. Follow Christopher Fowler on Twitter @Peculiar
Follow the Hall of Mirrors Blog Tour
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