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4.4 out of 5 stars31
4.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 7 July 2008
I do admit that this review might be slightly biased as Christopher Fowler is one of my favourite authors. This is the latest and concluding instalment of the Bryant and May series. Although you don't have to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this one, reading them will give you a better understanding of the role of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, the characters and previous investigations which are referenced throughout the novel.

This time Bryant and May decide to investigate a spate of killings that are taking place in some of London's most historic pubs. A mysterious man with a wine-mark on his face is targeting middle aged women and murdering them using a lethal injection. As you'd expect, the plot is good, the characterisation is fabulous and Arthur Bryant is up to his usual tricks. As this is the end of the series, I was also incredibly impressed that Fowler didn't fall into the usual trap of tying up every loose end and leaving some room for the reader's imagination.

As with other books by Christopher Fowler, expect the usual humour and lightness of touch, as well as a wealth of information and unknown facts about London. I can't wait to see what he'll come up with next (CF - if you're reading this, could we have something else featuring the Insomnia Squad please?!)

As usual, highly recommended.
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on 27 July 2010
I picked this book up in my local bookstore and did judge it by its cover, luckily that paid off and I found a great book/series.

A very entertaining murder mystery set in todays London, someone is murdering women in busy crowded pubs, they are found dead with only a small injection mark/wound but no one has seen anything, and oddly one of the murders seems to have happened in a pub that had been closed and demolished 80 years ago but her body is found in the street today near Euston Road.

A great story that tells you something of the rich history of the London Pub. This book was a great find. I will now look at the others in the Bryant and May series.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 28 January 2015
“Whenever the cadaverous Home Office security supervisor became involved in their affairs, babies cried, women cowered, innocence was punished and blame was wrongly apportioned.”

This is the sixth in the Bryant & May series. I know I’m reading this one out of order, but it was loaned to me, so I will go back and read the others, as this was brilliant. Arthur Bryant and John May are two detectives who work for the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London. They are both now fairly elderly, and have been involved in detective and police work for many years, and reminisce about early cases. I believe at least one of the other novels in the series features the solving of one of the earlier cases, set in an earlier time period. This novel, the sixth was set in current day London.

The PCU is a small crime-busting team of some rather eccentric characters, who ill fit in the modern day Police force; a team the Home Office would rather like to close down permanently, but who go on stubbornly identifying and solving crimes the Police themselves cannot. The other members of Bryant and May’s team are all great characters in themselves; from Raymond Land, Acting Temporary Unit Chief right down to Crippen the adopted cat. And while there’s a mystery that requires solving, we also get to see inside the lives of the team, a delight in itself.

In this story there seems to be a link between the unexplained and sudden deaths of several women in and around public houses in London. What could possibly be the cause and meaning of these deaths? And could there be more to it than Bryant and May initially believe, even when they think they’ve found the main suspect?

I loved the references to places, people and cultural and societal history throughout the book; Bryant in particular is a fount of information, most of which many people would consider useless, but I found him, and his information fascinating. This story features many of London’s old and long-established public houses, and the detail and history that the author has gone into in characterising and populating these establishments is wonderful to read. I look forward to reading more of the series, starting with the first one Full Dark House.
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Arthur Bryant of the Peculiar Crimes Unit witnesses a woman walk into a pub, The Victoria, who is subsequently found murdered. There is but one problem with his eye-witness testimony of some of her last moments: when he returns to the location, the pub is not there and the site has been occupied for years by a shop.

In other words, this - the sixth book in Christopher Fowler's series featuring Arthur Bryant and his colleague John May of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit - is once again an homage to the traditional English crime novel such as The Moving Toyshop, which featured a dead woman and a shop that is there and then isn't.

The Victoria Vanishes contains many of the popular elements of the previous books in the series. It is firmly set in a London background, with this time the histories, locations and customers of London pubs providing much of the raw material for the plot and setting.

Arthur Bryant may have just about conquered his problems with technology, but once again we learn more about the regular characters as the plot develops. Much of John May's family history is filled out, but to keep readers wanting more there are also a range of hints and names related to Bryant's own family introduced for the first time.

Sometimes the number of references to events in previous books almost threatens to stifle this one, but Fowler skilfully navigates between providing enough free-standing information in the references for new readers to be able to follow the story whilst keeping it brief enough that for regular readers it does not sink into being a `best of' highlights repeat show.

Fowler also once again shows his skill in coming up with a plausible explanation for the sort of narrative artefacts that an author often needs to keep the tension and mystery. This time round information is regularly withheld from the reader not out of the pure caprice of characters or by clichéd cutting between scenes but by Arthur Bryant in his old age struggling with his memory and only slowly remembering key facts as his memory classes begin to have an impact.

As the plot unfolds, the reader is taken into a world of an implausible conspiracy but, as with the conspiracy behind Seventy-Seven Clocks (Bryant & May 3), Fowler always plays fair with the reader as the Peculiar Crimes Unit follows a logical thread through the evidence, until eventually unearthing the full story - which is about much more than simply who carried out a murder in a disappearing pub.

As ever, the audio version is narrated by Tim Goodman - who once again shows how a really good narrator adds to the author's text.
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Yes, this was definitely an interesting reading experience, especially if you have a love of that great institution, the British pub. (I have to confess that, as an American, it is very easy for me to fall for the charm of English pubs - with my rose colored glasses firmly in place.) In fact there are 56 pubs mentioned in this book. I know that because Christopher Fowler was kind enough to list them in the back of the book.

The Peculiar Crimes Unit is perfectly constructed to investigate any unusual crime in London which needs the help of unconventional methods and people. When the number of women found murdered either inside or outside pubs begins to grow, Arthur Bryant and John May want their unit to be allowed to track down the killer. This story was constructed very well because the detectives had to begin with absolutely no information to connect up the clues and find who they were pointing to. The story moved all the way from a maximum security prison, the basements of pubs, the British Museum, and to a high security company doing research for the Ministry of Defense. I enjoyed it very much and especially enjoyed all the trivia and general historical information about London and London pubs. What I didn't find, however, was the laugh-out-loud humor I had been expecting from reading other reviews and the book blurbs. Maybe it was too subtle for me? I don't know. The mystery itself wasn't particularly difficult but it was well written and interesting to read about.

I do recommend this particular book and will personally try another book in the series. This one leaves our intrepid investigators very much at sixes and sevens. Since I see there is another novel following this one, it might be interesting to find out how they brought themselves back from extinction.
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on 12 February 2011
Bryant and May, the oldest detectives.... in the world, are back in another seemingly bizarre case (or cases). If you like a few twists and turns, if you enjoy "office politics" as well as sifting evidence, and if you want your cop on the maverick side (or a whole department of them) then this is for you. The wealth of arcane information about London is worth reading on it's own, but wrapped up in a splended mystery, at turns comic and tragic, it's a gem. But don't read this one. At least, not until you've read the others first - it's much better that way...
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VINE VOICEon 24 June 2013
I have enjoyed every last one of the Bryant & May books. Two old men who should have retired long ago, heading up a police unit that investigates strange crimes. I have found them all equally enjoyable, so this 4 Stars is really for the series. Every book is really a London history lesson wrapped up with a fiction plot bow. As a Londoner I therefore find the musings and information on London life irresistible. Highly recommended if you like your detection with an 'odd' bent, although these two are far from Mulder and Scully.
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on 2 June 2014
Not really as good as I expected it to be - there was an irritating smart-alec feel to the main characters who seemed to know so much about everything. Mr Fowler gives the impression of a man with an axe to grind with throw away lines such as the metal for our planes campaign in WW2 "being propaganda - what else?" and similar irrelevancies. Can't help feeling that I've read a lot of stories like this in the past. Sorry but this review may not be very helpful!!
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on 21 September 2011
Another fun book from Christopher Fowler . Loved all the details about London pubs [ even mentioned my fav Vicky stakes} and it made in laugh out loud on the tube a few times . Did not give it 5 stars as I found the ending a little rushed and rather silly .Yes this is more sentimental than dark which is not what I had come to expect from Fowlers work .
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on 19 June 2015
l loved this volume of bryant and may, lots to solve with internal and personal problems, l would highly recommed it.
However how many other people though this was the final volume in the series? l did read the author mr fowler did state on his website that he intended to finish in 6 volumes......
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