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Posts Tagged ‘Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart’

bleedingheartArthur Bryant and John May of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit are Golden Age detectives untarnished by the modern era. Irascible Bryant, who looks like an ancient tortoise, is especially disdainful of modern technology; voodoo makes more sense to him than cell phones. Wily John May is somewhat younger and less fusty but knows his partner’s instincts and esoteric knowledge are invaluable. Still, the elderly duo are under pressure again from the higher-ups to prove their relevance or risk defunding. But, seriously, who else are you going to call when a star-gazing teen in a cemetery swears a corpse has arisen from its grave and started a conversation? Or when seven ravens vanish from the Tower of London, and mythology has it that their departure signals Britain’s downfall?

These two cases surprisingly intersect in Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart (Bantam/Random House, library hardcover), the delightful 11th installment in the entertaining series. A murder and a presumed suicide lead the detectives to St. Georges Gardens, a small park with ancient graves and a few spaces reserved for new residents. From there it’s a hop and skip to the local undertaker, rumors of black magic, a secret society and the reappearance of the Victorian-era body-snatchers known as the resurrection men. One of the series’ ongoing pleasures, in addition to its endearingly eccentric protagonists, is the way in which Fowler incorporates arcane bits of London history into his clever, convoluted plots. Here we get the chilling legend of Bleeding Heart Yard. Shiver. . .

chimneyA mummified body falling out of a bedroom chimney heralds 12-year-old Flavia de Luce’s arrival at a Canadian boarding school — Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy — in 1951. The precocious sleuth could hardly ask for more from her late mother Harriet’s alma mater after being “banished” from her beloved Buckshaw home in England. “Banished!” Flavia intones at the beginning of Alan Bradley’s As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Delacorte Press, digital galley). “There is no sadder word in the English language. The very sound of it — like echoing iron gates crashing closed behind you; like steel ┬ábolts being shot shut — makes your hair stand on end, doesn’t it?”

It takes a lot to unnerve the irrepressible Flavia, as readers of the six previous mysteries well know, so even the dislodging of the aforementioned corpse and the subsequent detachment of its skull only serve to intrigue her, as do the presence of an an acquitted murderess on the faculty and the mysterious disappearance of several fellow students. Is Miss Bodycote’s haunted? Is the stern headmistress friend or foe? Is the locked chemistry lab hiding dark secrets? Flavia is on the case in one of her most appealing adventures yet.

foxgloveBen Aaronovitch is a former screenwriter for Doctor Who, which helps explain his wild and witty paranormal police procedurals featuring detective Peter Grant.  The matter-of-fact manifestation of magic in everyday life came as a surprise to the young police constable in the first book in the series, Midnight Riot. But by now, in the fifth book, Foxglove Summer (DAW, purchased e-book), Grant is a semi-experienced junior wizard, dispatched by his mentor Nightingale to check out a missing persons case in rural Hertfordshire.

Two girls — best friends Nicole and Hannah — have vanished on a moonlit night, and Grant’s supposed to make sure nothing supernatural is involved. Purely routine, until it isn’t, with a mention that one of the girls had an “imaginary friend.” Before long, Grant is researching local folklore as to fairies, while the locals hone in on alien abductions. A retired wizard turns out to live in the vicinity, and there’s certainly something odd about his beekeeper daughter, who reports her bees are avoiding a certain part of the river. The foxgloves — source of digitalis — are blooming profusely. It’s a mash-up midsummer night’s dream of a mystery, and I couldn’t stop reading. Or grinning.

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