Back from the prequel that followed them to 1969 (Bryant and May: Hall of Mirrors, 2018), the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit settle in to another round of doing what they do best in present-day London: creating chaos while bringing an unusually single-minded killer to book.
On normal excursions, the Ladies of the Night meet to map the colonies of the bats they’re trying to preserve on Hampstead Heath. But insomniac Sparrow (nee Candice) Martin’s brief glimpse of a man on the Heath wearing a pig mask and attacking another man while she’s separated from the other Ladies sets her latest outing apart. Even though Sparrow takes flight, the bat journal she accidentally leaves behind allows Hugo Blake to track her down with no trouble after he’s finished hanging Dhruv Cheema from his ankles amid the branches of a willow tree and stabbing him to death. Not surprisingly, the ghoulish case is sent to the PCU, where the killing of bank employee Luke Dickinson under very different circumstances but with a suspiciously similar weapon persuades DCI Arthur Bryant, the master of arcane knowledge whose sources of information seem to include every seedy character in London, that the killer, who seems to prefer striking at 4 a.m., has other victims in mind—up to three others, by Bryant’s precise reckoning. Since no one outside the PCU shares Bryant’s unshakeable conviction, it’ll be up to his longtime friend and partner, DCI John May; Operations Director Janice Longbright; DS Meera Mangeshkar; DS Colin Bimsley; and the unit’s lesser lights to establish not only who the killer is, but what his victims have in common and where he’s likely to strike next. Complications ensue along with the wackiest digressions in the business, at least one gobsmacking coincidence, and two deaths that will catch even the most devoted fans of this wacky franchise by surprise.
The crime spree is relatively straightforward, but the devil is in the details, and Fowler’s details are hilariously devilish.