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Christopher Fowler has created a wonderful series in his Peculiar Crimes Unit, in which a couple of eccentric old men and their younger but equally eccentric support staff handle the crimes in London that are too, er, unusual for the regular police force. The Victoria Vanishes is the sixth novel in the series; this finds Arthur Bryant questioning his own memory and perhaps his faculties as a whole, as one night he sees something happen at an old pub that couldn't possibly exist. There have been a string of strange deaths of middle aged women in pubs, very public places where the murderer somehow feels capable of taking lives without anyone noticing - and he's getting away with it too, until Bryant and his partner John May become interested in the puzzle. Also, as usual the Home Office is trying to shut the PCU down once and for all, and it seems possible that this time, it might even succeed....Although these novels deal with heinous crimes, the series is also very, very funny; and Fowler's intimate knowledge of the history and life of London adds a further delightful dimension to the books. I think one could read The Victoria Vanishes without having read the previous five novels - Fowler makes mention of some earlier cases, but the reader doesn't need to know those stories to appreciate this one - but it's a richer experience when you have had time to get to know the characters from the previous books. Recommended!
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