TEN SECOND STAIRCASE by Christopher Fowler


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Mr. Bryant and Mr. May, well beyond statutory retirement age, show no inclination to leave.

The Met scoffs at them. The Home Office derides them. Raymond Land, Acting Temporary Head of the Peculiar Crimes Unit since 1973, thinks they’re overdue for psychiatric evaluation. But Bryant, the curmudgeon, and May, the adulterer, command blind loyalty and respect from PCU members Janice Longbright, Dan Banbury and Giles Kershaw, who probably represent their future. Their latest peculiar crime is the death of anti-establishment artist Saralla White, somehow pitched into her gallery installation, a seven-foot-tall tank full of water. According to the only eyewitness, a 13-year-old student from posh St. Crispin’s, the malefactor was a man in a cape, a mask and a tricorner hat, riding a horse. Soon enough, another minor celebrity, telly presenter Danny Martell, is mysteriously electrocuted while he’s alone in a gym and the same figure, minus his horse, is spotted outside. The newspapers quickly dub him the Highwayman, and he does resemble Dick Turpin, a former St. Crispin’s student. John Dickson Carr may plot better, but Fowler (The Water Room, 2005, etc.) has a glorious command of language, knows every nook and tawdry cranny of English history from the Knights Templar onward and has the most fertile conversational patter of anyone save Jonathan Gash.

How many locked-room puzzles can the duo unlock before their Peculiar Crimes unit is disbanded? Many more, one hopes.

Pub Date: July 4th, 2006
ISBN: 0-553-80449-9
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2006


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