I've just finished the latest (10th) book in the series, and I am a fan!!!
I recommend this series to anyone who loves great, quirky British crime novels, and who would enjoy getting to know two octogenarian detectives solving crimes in the London Peculiar Crimes Unit. A special unit under the Home Office, they are themselves a Peculiar bunch, Bryant and May and their team.
Bryant (described as looking like a great tortoise with a long scarf around its neck while fishing lint-covered "boiled sweets" from his pockets now and then and popping them into his ill-fitting dentures) befriends the London occult subculture and scholarly outsiders, looking to London history and intuition. There is lots of really cool and unusual London history in this series! His dapper friend and partner May does the detective scutwork, collecting evidence and using forensics and police resources. Together they solve more crimes than any other unit--while dealing with bureaucratic red tape and political harassment with the London Metro Police hierarchy constantly threatening to shut down the unit.
Bryant & May, eccentric, annoying and endearing in turn, have intrigued me into advancing through the series, eagerly awaiting the next book with their next adventures. All the while I'm holding my breath hoping these fragile old guys won't croak before we get to read a bunch more of their stories!!
I found the tone of the story, the characters, and the narration to be unrelenting downers, without enough to hold my interest. I expect more than to just bear witness to what seemed to be 1. people who don't respect each other, or their jobs, and 2. a place that has few redeeming qualities to one interested in what happens there. I read some gritty ones too--the thing that they need to have to hold me is human interest.
I have read all of James Lee Burke's Robicheaux novels, and wonder that other reviews find these comparable, other than being set in So.LA. What grabs me in Burke's novels is a protagonist (and the people close to him) with qualities a reader can empathize with; they aren't just depressives living depressing lives facing depressing circumstances.
Perhaps I didn't stick with it long enough to find a redeeming value in the Bayou Trilogy--it just didn't happen soon enough to not lose me and make me feel I'd wasted my Audible credits.
Something about this book, though it is entertaining, is as if it was written with a view to making a movie--one that comes out in the summer. What? It did?
There are too many things that seem formulaic and thin, and sometimes points in the plot seem just inauthentic.
For one thing, there is no apparent believable reason for Madame Mallory to taste one dish (an Indian dish at that--a cuisine in which we can expect she has no interest or experience) and identify the protagonist as having the makings of a Great French Chef.
And for another, with all the learning from Grandma in Bombay, he seems to have no real love or connection to the delicious cuisine of India, which has been his life up to that point. Nothing explains why he throws his own heritage away and becomes what seems to me to be a rather effete francophile chef with Michelin stars in his eyes.
That the French culinary world would accept him (with but one incident mentioned in which he is mistaken by someone on the street for an "arab," isn't really very believable either. One would expect he had to prove himself even more than home-grown French chefs starting out in Paris. That would be a good story (but no, it's easy), and his being taken under the wing of the "Count" doesn't explain that acceptance sufficiently.
I haven't finished the book.....don't know if I will. I have grown tired of the writing sounding as if the author is pitching his movie and/or just worships great French chefs. I love French cuisine too, but I also love good Indian food, and the journey he made across the street was away from authenticity.
The early part of the book fleshed out an interesting Indian family, their success, their food, and their tragedies, and then a hundred feet from where they settle in France all that evaporates and we are in the rather esoteric world of Michelin stars and other matters related to being a competitive chef in France. OK--an Indian kid can aspire to being a French chef, but somehow we never really learn who he is as a fleshed-out character with an inner life. The writer plays the sauce all along the way, never really getting to the meat.
He "pouf" becomes a Frenchman, and that is a loss.
Will he return to his heritage later on in the book? Not sure; he doesn't seem very interesting as a person, because we don't really get much of a character study, and he seems to be nothing more than a lucky chef breezing to 3 stars in that narrow world. Even his revered friend, chef Paul, is a cardboard cutout--cardboard with stars on it is still cardboard.
As for a good story with believable characters who have an inner life, I'm still hungry. I am afraid the journey of reading this book has been downhill.
The town and the characters are more important than the mystery, though it's a doozie, illustratiing how WWII's aftermath just keeps on giving.....Great first book in this series, glad there are more!!!
Tana French is a new favorite author for me. I've now read all of the Dublin decective mysteries, and really like the way she focuses each book on one of the dectectives featured in the earlier stories. Can't wait for the next one! The narrator is good, too!
Surprising that the pothead PI is so timely. Very enjoyable character, who at bottom is a straight arrow while accepting of every kind of person, crook or cop, in his inimitable laid-back weed-softened way.
Hero is the first Asberger's porn star character I've encountered in my reading.
Really good narrator can't pull this book together for me.
I love how Christopher Moore immerses himself in a time and with human history and presents us with a view deeply rooted in their reality, but with newly imagined possibilities. This book is a great example of that, a sorta occult mystery steeped in blue (not ultramarine, from Lapis, but some other blue, from--not sure, some kind of magic that happens in a cave.........
Anyhow, it includes a loving view of the early 20th C impressionists all those who have steeped themselves in their work and their stories can appreciate. I am a painter, and Cezanne was an early hero, next to Monet and Van Gogh. The story touches on all of them, and portrays the times in a believable way.
It gets over the top, of course. This IS a Christopher Moore novel.
A friend recommended this series, knowing I loved Frank Delaney's IRELAND - A NOVEL.
But two things have me bogged down in Part 1: (1) the narrator, whose voice is fine for other things, plods along without much variety in tone, (2) the fictional assumptions and trite story of pre-historical England just don't work for me. The characters aren't alive for me--or interesting. No new material is presented. Not that I expected surprises, just that I thought there would be more than I've gotten from a zillion other sources before, like: could there would be more archeological information to it than the surface assumptions about those early inhabitants that are already all over popular media? Is there really no more to learn about those early people? Are they really so simple as to be "not like us?"
For me, good historical fiction bridges that particular gap--relating to real people we could know.
My friend says to stick with it, that following the genetic group that the "prehistory" part begins with becomes more interesting later on. I might just skip ahead, as I just can't plod along with the pre-Arthurian Brits!
The narrator is, IMHO, the wrong one for this series. Perhaps the series itself is why she didn't put the early part over so far as I was concerned, though.
If you buy this series, prepare yourself to slog through it until it gets interesting along the way in this LONG series--and like I will, hope that happens! .
Like two other Joanna Piercy series novels I've read, there are lots of great human interest sub-plots and myriad plot twists in this book, but it needed a good editor to weed out some of the plodding of it all.
Methodical DI Joanna, I still think you have potential--this is one of the early ones in the series, so perhaps Masters grows into it and gets a stronger editor later in the series.
Like Joanna, I plod on--will follow up with one or two later novels in the series to find out.
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