read for: historical fiction challenge, peculiar crimes unit mysteries
*may contain spoilers*
It really was a hell of a blast.
After the death of Arthur Bryant, his partner for over fifty years, John May, detective of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit, is determined to find his friend's murderer. His investigation keeps bringing up references to the very first case he and Arthur ever took on together. John has to dig into his memory to a time of blackouts and bombs to remember a grisly series of murders at the Palace Theater in order to avenge his friend.
I am almost finished reading the Brother Cadfael books and so I'm looking for a new series of mysteries to take their place. I was a little wary going into this one, since my sister the librarian said it was boring, but I should have just remembered she's also told me "The Woman in White" was boring which has turned out to be one of my favorite books. I think this will do nicely as a replacement series (though don't worry, Hugh Berringar, no one will ever replace you in my heart). It's not nearly as long as Brother Cadfael, but I believe the author isn't finished writing them. Anyway, onto actually talking about the book...
Since it was the first of the series, this is the book where not only do we, the readers, get to meet Arthur and John and their band of peculiars, but they get to meet each other for the first time. I really liked the way the meeting was done. Instead of starting at the beginning, we meet them on the day of Arthur's death and then travel back 65 years or so to the London Blitz and John and Arthur's first case together. Seeing the parallel between the first case and Arthur's murder kept the two stories well connected.
I loved Arthur and John. They were a great odd couple and that's what you want in a somewhat comical detective duo, like Shawn and Gus from Psych or Booth and Brennan from Bones (though maybe without the latter's romantic tension - of course this is only book one so who knows). John's a perfect newbie straight man to Arthur's tragically comic eccentric. I also liked how young they are. John's nineteen and Arthur's barely into his twenties, yet here they are, forced by the war to grow up pretty quick. But they've still got quite a bit of youthful exuberance and naivete.
Lastly, I love when a book makes constant reference to another work (in this case: the operetta Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach). I love getting introduced to something else through the book I'm reading.