Summary and book reviews of The Water Room by Christopher Fowler

The Water Room

The Second Bryant & May Mystery

by Christopher Fowler

The Water Room by Christopher Fowler X
The Water Room by Christopher Fowler
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2006, 512 pages

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Book Summary

They are detection's oddest couple: two cranky detectives whose professional partnership dates back half a century. Now Arthur Bryant and John May return in a case of multiple murder that twists through a subterranean course of the secrets, lies, and extreme passions that drive even ordinary men and women to the most shocking crimes….

They are living legends with a reputation for solving even the trickiest cases using unorthodox, unconventional, and often completely unauthorized methods. But the Peculiar Crimes Unit headed by Detectives John May and Arthur Bryant is one mistake away from being shut down for good. And when the elderly sister of Bryant's friend is found dead in the basement of her decrepit house in Kentish Town, they find themselves on the verge of making exactly that mistake.

According to the coroner, Ruth Singh's heart simply stopped beating. But why was a woman who rarely left the house fully dressed for an outing? And why was there river water in her throat? Convinced that the old lady didn't die a natural death, the detectives delve into a murky case with no apparent motive, no forensics, and no clues. And they've barely launched their investigation when death claims another victim. Suddenly they discover some very unnatural behavior surrounding Ruth Singh's death by "natural" causes–from shady real estate developers and racist threats to two troubled marriages, from a dodgy academician working London's notorious "grey economy" to a network of antiquities collectors obsessed with Egyptian mythology. And running beneath it all are the sweeping tentacles of London's vast and forgotten underground river system. As the rains pour down and the water rises, Bryant and May must rely on instinct, experience, and their own very peculiar methods to stem a tide of evil that threatens to drown them all.

1

A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER

 

Arthur Bryant looked out over London and remembered.

Fierce sunlight swathed Tower Bridge beyond the rockeries of smouldering bomb-sites. A Thames sailing barge was arriving in the Pool of London with a cargo of palm kernels. Its dusty red sails sagged in the afternoon heat as it drifted past Broadway Dock at Limehouse, like a felucca on the Nile. Dairy horses trotted along the deserted Embankment, empty milk cans chiming behind them. Children swam from the wharves below St Paul's, while carping mothers fanned away stale air from the river steps. He could smell horse dung and tobacco, meadow grass, the river. The world had once moved forward in single paces.

The vision wavered and vanished, displaced by sun-flares from the sealed glass corridors of the new city.

...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times - Marilyn Stasio
The plot isn't designed to make sense but to draw us into an imaginative funhouse of a world where sage minds go to expand their vistas and sharpen their wits.

Kirkus Reviews
Fowler's tale - humorous, engaging, at times incoherent - inundates readers with historical details, myths, subplots, and maps and then tacks on a denouement that seems to belong to a separate novel.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Traditional mystery buffs with a taste for the offbeat will relish British author Fowler's wonderful second contemporary whodunit featuring the Peculiar Crimes Unit and its elderly odd couple.

Booklist - David Pitt
Britain's Fowler seems to be one of those multitalented types who can write anything and do it well.....the real thrill here is the delightful duo in the starring roles, two fresh and unusual characters who manage to breathe new life into an established genre in which it's getting harder and harder to find anything genuinely fresh.

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Beyond the Book

Trivia: Bryant & May matches have been a household name in Britain from the 1860s until the present. The oldest surviving animated film is an advertisement for Bryant & May matches from 1899 asking the audience to donate one guinea so that the company can give a free box of matches to every British soldier fighting in the Boer War!  Considering Fowler's background in the film industry I wonder if this little piece of silver-screen trivia influenced his choice of detectives' names?
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