First published: UK, Doubleday, 2004
Bryant and May, investigating several murders in a gentrified London street. The complex plot involves the lost rivers of London, Egyptian and Roman mythology, the four elements (water, earth, air, fire), and the search for treasure (or something of mystical importance?). Water’s a major symbol—it rains constantly, and Fowler seems to invoke elemental forces and climate change. The criminal is a surprise, and, as always, Fowler writes extremely well.
Main theme: importance of HOME (and treatment of refugees and homeless people); middle class pettiness and respectability—decline in society (sense of community) since WWII); pagan ‘freedom’ vs. Christian strictures.
In Which Mr Bryant Goes Under The Street
And Mr May Hunts A Killer Above It
Bryant & May’s investigation of a secret world beneath London begins when a woman is found in a dry basement with her throat full of river-water. In the quiet street where she lives, the residents are unsettled by the sound of rushing water. Further impossible deaths reveal a connection to the lost underground rivers of London, and a disgraced academic hunts an ancient secret that will soon be lost within the forgotten canals. Meanwhile it won’t stop raining, there’s a flood coming, and nobody’s house is safe as Bryant and May head beneath the city to stop a murderer from striking again.
MAY: You cannot act against the law, Arthur!
BRYANT: You can when the law is an ass.
‘An imaginative funhouse of a world where sage minds go to expand their vistas and sharpen their wits’ – New York Times
‘An example of what Christopher Fowler does so well, which is to merge the old values with the new values – reassuring, solid, English and traditional. He’s giving us two for the price of one here.’ Lee Child
‘Quirky and original and very funny; the relationship between Bryant & May is done brilliantly. People who like Holmes and Watson will love this. Absolutely fascinating.’ Mark Billingham