I have no idea how I could have missed this series for so long. I am now four books in (although I skipped the first) and already have the next one downloaded to my e-reader. The only reason I can come up with (because I’ve known of their existence) is that the cover art made me think they were kids’ books.
They’re not. They are extraordinarily well written, well plotted adult mysteries and I highly recommend them.
If you like traditional mysteries but want some pizazz and, well, some weirdness too—the Peculiar Crimes Unit series is for you. Arthur Bryant and John May are two elderly detectives who are still actively running the PCU. This unit is a specialized police team designed to investigate cases that could cause national scandal or public unrest. The unit, formed during WWII, is given the cases the regular metropolitan police aren’t interested in or can’t spend time on. In other word, the weird cases.
Located in London, the city is as much a character in the novels as are the detectives. Arthur Bryant and John May are the senior detectives and partners since the beginning of the unit. May is the down to earth, focused and likable of the two, constantly having to smooth over (or soothe over) for errors in judgement made by Bryant. Bryant is prickly, makes regular enemies, and is just as likely to consult a witch or psychic as an actual witness to a crime. Whereas May relies on modern technology, Bryant favors atmosphere, environment, and psycho-social explanations of motivation. The two make perfect partners; they quarrel like an old married couple, but would also do anything for the other.
The PCU is constantly on the chopping block, the elderly detectives are frequently observing the effect age has on their abilities to solve mysteries/murders, and the hierarchy in policing are themes throughout the novels. And the murders are all, well…very odd. If you are a reader who wanted to like the Da Vinci Code but were appalled by the bad writing, you’ll enjoy the mix of London’s ancient history, modern day societal problems, the occult, and the pressing need to solve contemporary murders.
There is complex plotting here. Expect red herrings. Expect multiple diversions into sidelines. These are not paint-by-the-numbers mysteries. Expect historic meanderings about London. And expect a lot of great dialogue, fun characters, and great puzzles.