Locked out and disbanded at the end of The Victoria Vanishes (2008), London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit comes back from the grave to solve yet another bizarre case.
Urban planners have brought exciting new developments to the dicey neighborhood of King’s Cross. One is a man wearing a stag’s head who’s frightening and perhaps abducting passersby. Another is the headless corpse in the freezer of a building that’s the new home of the Paradise Chip Shop. The threat of negative publicity for the showcase project is so great that Oskar Kasavian and Leslie Faraday, sworn enemies of the PCU, agree to reconstitute it on an ad hoc basis—“no equipment, no money, no offices, no status, no technical backup, nothing”—if its members can solve the mystery before public confidence is undermined. Although equable John May is eager to go back to work, crusty Arthur Bryant, his fellow chief detective, is less interested in the murder than the stag-head man. Armed with his customary knowledge of all human endeavor, Bryant soon traces the apparent prankster’s roots to the mythological Green Man, who “wants to reclaim the ancient woodlands” from the encroachments of railways and urban development. But the unit’s investigation of the Albert Dock Architectural Partnership Trust (ADAPT) and its adversaries will lead them off on many tangents before the curtain comes crashing ambiguously down.
Neither the mystery nor the solution is up to Fowler’s best work. But the reunion of the PCU is cause for such joy that only the most curmudgeonly fans will quibble.