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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 January 2015
The Invisible Code, the tenth book in Christopher Fowler's excellent series on the ageing detectives from the Peculiar Crimes Unit, continues his lovely homage to the Golden Age of crime fiction.

This time the two detectives Bryant and May, are called in to help their bureaucratic nemesis, Oskar Kasavian, whose wife appears to be going mad and whose behaviour threatens his next big career move. What follows is the usual mix of mystery, cogitation, occasional dramatic action and playing fair to the reader by keeping to the story's internal logic and making clues available. In this case, a clue to one of the major red herrings being just that is there in plain sight in the earlier dialogue but unless you've extremely sharp-eyed, you'll almost certainly miss at the time that it was even a clue.

Whilst I felt that in the previous volume, The Memory of Blood, the series was showing its age a little, this time there's rather more freshness about the plot, the newly introduced characters and the exposition of London history used as the backdrop to all the events. Bryant & May and The Invisible Code also features rather less mysticism than before, with Bryant once again consulting a witch when stumped but this time they both strongly hint that neither really believes in anything beyond advanced psychological expertise of the Derren Brown sort. Regardless, the mysticism is as ever part of Bryant's engaging eccentricities rather than central to the plot or its explanation.

Bryant & May and The Invisible Code is bursting with references to London's quaint and eccentric corners, with some beautiful descriptions but also a few factual errors creep in - which is something I had not really noticed before (other than a reference to the staircase at Hampstead tube station in Seventy-Seven Clocks though that may have been artistic license for a chase rather than an error over its huge length). The errors I have spotted this time are not serious - mixing up "A" and "The" in the name of a painting and an off-beam reference to the story behind Elgar's Enigma Variations - and certainly do not detract from the plot unless you're determined to find something you don't like.

The plot is pretty much completely free-standing, with a few references back to one earlier volume in the series, but nothing that the reader has to know in order to follow The Invisible Code.

However, it also features the full range of usual characters from the series and many of them are introduced only briefly. If you are not already familiar with all their quirks and differences from reading previous books, you may well find the mass of different police characters rather confusing and hard to differentiate.

As ever, Tim Goodman's audio narration is brilliant and his change of voices between the characters helps keep them all distinct, which is handy if you are newer to the cast.
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on 5 June 2014
i bought this book as a present for my son and he really enjoyed it. i thought it was quite good.
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on 13 September 2012
My husband and I have a relatively short list of authors whose books we always buy without inquiry or waiting for the reviews; we know without a doubt they'll be worth reading. After reading the first Bryant and May book, Christopher Fowler took his place on that list and has since been in no danger of removal. Bryant and May are delightfully unlike any other fictional detectives but, if I were to make a comparison, it would be to Holmes and Watson in that they are an odd couple who are destined to have a long literary life. These are rare characters, the kind that inspire devotion and that take up permanent residence in our imaginations. Amid so many books that are firmly rooted in this brief moment of time, and which will be dated and justly forgotten in less than five years, I'm betting that Bryant and May will be beloved a hundred years from now.

The interest in these books, for us, lies in the timeless human crankiness of the characters and the London setting, which reminds us that to love and venerate a place is almost impossible without knowing its history. Everything Arthur Bryant sees as he traverses the city is redolent with meaning for him because of his vast and intricate knowledge of its past, and the ways in which it lives on and continues to manifest itself with or without our awareness. I can think of no other books that I would put on the same shelf with these; there's a strong thread of fantasy that tantalizes, in part because we're never quite sure it's really there. I think this is a wise choice on the author's part.

For reasons unknown, this latest book has been released in the United Kingdom considerably before it is due to be released in the U.S. We couldn't wait, so sought it out on the Amazon UK site and gladly paid the extra to have it sent to us in the U.S., a measure of our delight in having another Bryant and May.
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on 6 October 2013
I am so glad author Christopher Fowler was willing to take a chance to write mystery novels with a twist. And the twist definitely works for me. The two lead characters, Arthur Bryant and John May, by modern standards should be retired and growing vegetable marrows on an allotment somewhere. Thank goodness Fowler has kept these two older police detectives active and investigating serious crimes. It would be so easy for Bryant and May to fall into the category of caricatures of detectives, but that is never the case. Even though Bryant makes frequent references to his age, that age in no way keeps him from being essential to the investigations in all of these novels. Here, in the tenth book in the series, Bryant even plays the dominant role in working out the solution to the murders.

The Peculiar Crimes Unit doesn't have any big case on it's books at the moment so when Arthur Bryant hears about an unusual death in St. Bride's Church, for which his pathologist friend is having trouble finding a cause of death, he decides to do some investigating on his own. This is soon sidelined when Oskar Kasavian, the official from the Home Office department in charge of the PCU, asks for the help of the unit in investigating what is happening to his wife, Sabira. Kasavian is about to head up the UK's initiative in the EU which will change forever the way terrorism threats are dealt with within the UK and he needs help finding out why his wife is behaving more and more irrationally. Is Sabira really just a young, bored wife of an important government official or is there something tangible causing her paranoia and talk of witches?

This story features Arthur Bryant more than other members of the Unit, but everyone is important to the solving of the case. Talk of witches and Satanists might lead some to think that this is a paranormal or fantasy novel, but that would not be correct. The Peculiar Crimes Unit has to be ready to deal with crimes that lead them into some very odd places but this is most definitely a police procedural mystery novel. Personally, I would have liked more detail on how the crimes were carried out than I got in the revelation, but this series is such a great favorite of mine that I'm willing to let my imagination fill in the blanks on some of the more pedestrian details. This book is definitely a stand alone novel, you don't have to be familiar with any of the other books in the series to enjoy it and become a real fan of the series. If you want to read my favorite so far, that would be The Victoria Vanishes: (Bryant & May Book 6).
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on 10 October 2013
This was a treat. Even after 10 books in the series, Christopher Fowler has still got it. "The Invisible Code" is fresh and lively and original, not a formulaic entry in a tired series. The suspense and pacing are excellent, so very hard to put this book down and do other things. The mystery is intriguing, and I didn't even begin to see how it would all fit together or who the culprit would be, but it all came together seamlessly. The balancing act of suspense, occult, and comedy never falters, you are chilled and then laughing. Arthur Bryant continues to be a comic delight, spending time with him is such fun, and he shines in this book. So much arcane knowledge, so much lateral thought, and so funny--his appearance at The very posh Claridge's is a hoot, as is his dysfunctional relationship with technology. Even the secondary characters are fascinating--are Renfield and Longbright ever going to get together? Colin and Meera? Crippen is pregnant? So much going on. And the ending made me want to begin book 11 immediately. Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for my advance copy.
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Detectives Bryant and May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are called in to investigate when a young woman is found dead in a church. There is no obvious cause of death, so they have to decide whether this was murder - or was she the victim of some spooky supernatural...er...something. Meantime, their boss and archenemy Oskar Kasavian asks them to help find out why his wife seems to be going mad - because that's always something you would ask the police to look into, isn't it? Psychics, shades of Bedlam, and witch-hunters - just a normal day for Bryant and May...

This is most definitely a book that requires the reader to check her disbelief at the door. The plot is...well...I tried to think of a politer word, but 'ridiculous' is the most appropriate. Is there a supernatural theme or isn't there? I genuinely have no idea. It's hinted at throughout but never confirmed. And the anachronisms! If we were to date the book purely on the characterisation, we'd have to assume we were in the 1950s, but the technology makes it clear we're supposed to be in the present day. So the idea that all top civil servants are male, that their wives don't work and meet up weekly in Harrods for afternoon tea...again, ridiculous.

In the afterword, the author says that he was 'determined to create a pair of intelligent Golden Age detectives who are forced to deal with the modern world.' Hmm...intelligent, I grant you. In fact, Bryant appears to have as encyclopaedic a knowledge of London as Holmes did, and the descriptions of some of the less well-known places are one of the main interests of the book. Golden Age? Well, they're old - but most of the Golden Age detectives of my experience tended to rule out supernatural causes. And modern world - the only concession to modernity is that they all have mobile phones. Otherwise even Poirot would have felt at home in this mid-20th century society.

However, so long as the reader doesn't expect the book to make any sense or have any basis in the real world, it's a fairly enjoyable light-hearted read. Bryant and May are likeable characters, and there's quite a lot of mild humour in the book. The writing is good, particularly of the spooky bits even though these didn't really make sense or go anywhere in the end. This is my first Bryant and May and, while it was fairly enjoyable overall, it wouldn't encourage me to read the rest of the series. But, looking at some of the other reviews, the series seems to have a dedicated and loyal following and several reviewers suggest this one isn't up to the usual standard; so I would be reluctant to write off the whole series on the basis of this one book, and may try an earlier one at some point. 3½ stars for me, so rounded up to 4.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House.
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on 9 September 2012
Bryant and May thrilling adventures are still among the best written work on the market and Bryant and May and the Invisible Code is first class. The plot is wonderfully clever, and it's incredibly difficult to put the book down. Christopher Fowler has a brilliant mind and every page is a real gem.Above all, his books are extremely scary, amusing and intelligent. A guaranteed journey into the unknown.Re-reading them only makes them better!
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on 13 September 2013
I love reading Christopher Fowler books, as soon as I buy his latest, I have to read it straight away. My favourite ones are the Bryant and May books, have read all the series, and can honestly say, this book is the best so far, I read the book in a day, as I just could not put it down. The 2 detectives in this book are so funny, one minute you are laughing out loud, then wondering what the next twist is going to be.
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on 2 November 2013
THE INVISIBLE CODE is the first book I've read by author Christopher Fowler, and I thoroughly enjoyed his excellent writing and story telling accompanied with a nice sense of humor. Since I'm new to the Peculiar Crimes Unit series featuring detectives Arthur Bryant and John May, I found the staff roster at the beginning of the book especially helpful because it listed the nine people working in the unit and made it easier for me to know these characters and keep track of them when they appeared in the story. The very humorous memo from unit head Raymond Land at the beginning also nicely set the tone for what follows and makes the reader feel at home with the characters and the setting.

Fowler skillfully weaves many elements through surprising twists and turns in his narrative. He writes in the style of traditional British mystery authors, yet his stories and characters are unique. Here are some of the main threads Bryant and May follow as the case unfolds:

The story begins with two children playing a witch hunt game outside Saint Bride's church in London. Looking for an evil witch, they select an unknown stranger quietly reading outside at lunchtime, 28 year old Amy O'Connor. She soon goes into the church and is found dead from unknown causes only a few minutes after walking in, and surveillance cameras show that no one came near her while she was there. Bryant and May are interested in taking this case but it is not in their jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, Home Office security supervisor Oskar Kasavian secretly hires Bryant and May to investigate the causes for his wife's strange behavior over the past six weeks. She behaved strangely and appeared delusional, insisting that she was being followed and harassed by an 'evil presence'. Bryant and May agree to take the case and Kasavian also gets the Amy O'Connor case assigned to the PCU because the events may be related. Kasavian is a prominent official concerned about his wife; he wants to avoid scandal yet also find out if there is any substance to her claims, though he does note that her family has a history of mental illness. Her erratic behavior continues and she is eventually placed in a private psychiatric clinic for observation and still insists that she is being followed and is in danger.

A media photographer who frequently photographed Kasavian's wife is found brutally murdered in a public park. On the day of his death he visited Saint Bride's church and surveillance cameras picked up a young girl with him at the time he was murdered. This made the detectives wonder if his actions were somehow linked to the Amy O'Connor case discussed above.

At a deeper and often unspoken level, this is also a story of friendship between the two elderly detectives. Their personality traits complement each other and they've helped each other in a friendship that has endured for over fifty years. The author gives us much humor and quirkiness in his portrayal of these two main characters.

This is book 10 in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series, and I enjoyed it so much that I will definitely get the other Kindle books as well. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys good and unusual mysteries.
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First sentence: There was a witch around here somewhere.

A young woman dies in St. Bride’s Church—there is no apparent cause of death. Bryant and May are called to the office of Oskar Kasavian; the man determined to shut down the Peculiar Crimes Unit. However, that’s not why they were summoned. Instead, he wants them to find out why his wife, an Albanian Muslim, has been acting strangely. A second death seems to link the two situations and sends Bryant and May on a fascinating trail.

From the very first, you know you’re in for something unusual and quite delightful. However, light soon turns to dark and a sense of dread.

Although the PUC and filled with interesting characters, this book puts a greater focus on Arthur Bryant, the eldest and most peculiar of the PUC. He is well described as being…”as much a part of London as the hobbled Tower raven, a Piccadilly barber, a gunman in the Blind Begger, and he would not be moved from his determined path. He was, everyone agreed, an annoying, impossible and indispensible fellow who had long ago decided that it was better to be disliked than forgotten.” Bryant often seeing things in situations that others do not.

Crime Scene Manager/Info Tech Dan Banbury also receives more time in this book. It is fascinating to follow him through his Sherlockian forensic evidence search.

There are interesting observations on class barriers and on poverty. Fowler perfectly captures the snarkiness of which the wives of important men are capable and building their own hierarchy based on their husband’s success.

Fowler very cleverly takes seemingly disparate threads and slowly weaves them together. Even though the plot may seem to wander a bit, there is method to the madness as it slowly circles nicely around and ends with a very satisfactory close.

“The Invisible Code” is a delightful mystery filled with humor, fascinating details and a very good surprise at the end.

THE INVISIBLE CODE (Pol Proc-Bryant and May-England-Contemp) – VG+
Fowler, Christopher – 10th in series
Bantam, 2013
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