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White Corridor [Hardcover]

Christopher Fowler


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Book Description

May 29 2007 Bryant & May Mysteries
From using crackpot psychics to cutting-edge forensics, Arthur Bryant and John May are famous for their maddeningly unorthodox approach to solving crimes that the ordinary police cannot. Now Christopher Fowler, “a new master of the classical detective story,”* brings back crime detection’s oddest—and oldest—couple to solve the ultimate locked room mystery.

It’s an “impossible” crime—a member of the Peculiar Crimes Unit killed inside a locked autopsy room populated only by the dead and to which only four PCU members had a key. And to make matters worse, the Unit has been shut down for a forced “vacation” and Bryant and May are stuck in a van miles away in the Dartmoor countryside during a freak snowstorm on their way to a convention of psychics.

Now, with Sergeant Janice Longbright in charge at headquarters, Bryant and May must crack the case by cell phone while trying to stop a second murder without freezing to death. For among the line of snowed-in vehicles, a killer is on the prowl, a beautiful woman is on the run from a man who seeks either redemption or another victim, and an innocent child is caught in the middle.

Weaving together two electrifying cases, White Corridor is an unforgettable triumph—by turns hilarious and harrowing—as two of detective fiction’s most marvelous characters confront one of human nature’s darkest mysteries: the ability to deceive, deny, and destroy.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1st Edition edition (May 29 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553804502
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739484531
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.8 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #393,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Blending humor and brilliant detection, Fowler's excellent fifth novel to feature the engaging if bizarre exploits of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit (after 2006's Ten Second Staircase) offers two challenging mysteries for his pair of eccentric sleuths, Arthur Bryant and John May. While driving to an international spiritualists' convention, Bryant and May find themselves trapped on the road near Dartmoor in a blizzard. Lurking among the stalled vehicles is a man who may be a multiple murderer. At the same time, the two try to help via cellphone their colleagues back in London, who must solve the locked-room murder of a PCU member, retiring pathologist Oswald Finch, before the unit is finally shut down for good. The fair-play solution will particularly satisfy lovers of golden age mysteries. Once again, Fowler shows himself to be a master of the impossible crime tale. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Senior-citizen sleuths Arthur Bryant and John May have never been ones to play by the rules. As the most distinguished (read oldest) members of London's peculiar Peculiar Crimes Unit, the men pride themselves on cracking cases no right-minded detectives would attempt. This fifth offering (after Ten Second Staircase, 2006) finds the two stranded in a deadly blizzard en route to a spiritualists' convention. (Detective Bryant has long been both ridiculed and admired for his obsession with the occult.) In their absence, the unit's forensic pathologist, who had been having second thoughts about his imminent retirement, is found dead in the morgue. The room was locked from the inside, and only four members of the PCU had keys. Patchy cell-phone reception can't keep Bryant and May from participating in the investigation. Meanwhile, the snow (and plot) thickens when the duo encounters a young woman and her son seeking protection from a charming French drifter. Sherlock Holmes meets Inspector Clouseau in this mordant, award-winning series in which Fowler gleefully skewers religious zealots and government officials alike. Of one of the latter he writes: "It was . . . as if Countess Bathory and Vlad the Impaler had mated to create the perfect bureaucratic hatchet man." Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly, also a good locked room murder mystery June 25 2007
By Lake Erie Islander - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a fan of Christopher Fowler's Peculiar Crime Unit as well as a fan of locked room mysteries, I viewed the arrival of this book with trepidation, because there are so few good new locked room murder mysteries. The last good new one I read was Barbara Amato's "Hard Tack" back in 1991. Even when I was two-thirds through Fowler's new book, "White Corridor", the dread of an inadequate solution remained. Fowler's style is very different from that in traditional locked room mysteries such as those by John Dickson Carr, but his style is also part of his charm. Fowler doesn't have much interest in a complex technical anlaysis of the murder scene. There simply wasn't any good discussion of whether door locks, window latches and other devices could or might have been manipulated to create the illusion of a locked room.

But the ending was worth the wait. The hallmark of a new locked room murder mystery is a novel solution to the locked room problem, and Fowler succeeds on all counts here.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "They were able to occupy a unique place in the city's investigative system." June 18 2007
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Christopher Fowler's droll and original "White Corridor" brings back the London-based Peculiar Crimes Unit, "a highly unorthodox specialist police division" founded by the now elderly senior detectives Arthur Bryant and John May. Bryant, in particular, has attracted a great deal of attention (mostly negative) because of his reliance on psychics, necromancers, cryptozoologists, and alternative therapists to help him solve "impossible" crimes. The PCU tackles sensitive cases using out-of-the-box thinking; they work outside of the many constraints that shackle the regular members of the Metropolitan Police Force. Unfortunately, Bryant and May have made some powerful enemies, including Oskar Kasavian, the vindictive supervisor in charge of Internal Security. Kasavian is plotting to get rid of the PCU once and for all.

Acting Unit Chief Raymond Land decides to declare a compulsory one week furlough for the PCU, ostensibly to upgrade the unit's computer system and to better organize its operations. In addition, the PCU's irascible pathologist, Oswald Finch, is about to retire; the thought of no longer hanging around his beloved mortuary throws Finch into a panic. He enjoys working with corpses; he has even begun to resemble them. Finch's probable successor, the Eton-educated Giles Kershaw, is looking forward to stepping into his mentor's shoes, but it turns out that Kershaw's appointment may not be a sure thing.

During this time of transition, Bryant drags May off to a convention of psychics, leaving the unit under the leadership of the conscientious Detective Sergeant Janice Longbright. When Bryant and May get caught in a blizzard, they are stranded somewhere in the Dartmoor countryside. They are freezing and anxious, since the rescue services will not be able to reach them until the weather clears. Meanwhile, DS Longbright and her colleagues are called upon not only to solve a sensitive murder case, but also to man the barricades when a royal visitor is invited to Mornington Crescent. Nor do Bryant and May get a well-deserved break from crime-solving. Even during a violent snowstorm, they end up trailing a mysterious killer with shadowy motives.

"White Corridor" is a sharply written, literate, and lively mystery. Fowler is a magnificent descriptive writer and his dialogue is brisk and dryly humorous. The story lines are complex and challenging enough to provide perfect fodder for the PCU. All of the characters are beautifully depicted: Bryant is one of the most amusing and unusual protagonists in contemporary British mysteries. He dresses in ridiculously out-of-date clothes, is on a first-name basis with a white witch, cultivates a sickly marijuana plant, plays sadistic practical jokes on his peers, disdains modern technology, and bickers endlessly with his frustrated but devoted housekeeper, Alma Sorrowbridge. However, he is also a brilliant detective, and in some ways, his mind works every bit as effectively as the most high-tech computer. May complements Bryant perfectly; although John is the more practical and more technologically proficient of the two, he has great respect for Arthur's intelligence and experience. Working together, the two men accomplish much more than they could separately.

The book succeeds for another reason. Instead of focusing exclusively on Bryant and May, the more junior members of the PCU finally take center stage. It is entertaining to observe them putting together clues on their own and proudly showing that they have profited from the careful training that they received at the feet of the masters. "White Corridor" ends on a bizarre note, but if the crimes featured in Fowler's books weren't outlandish, there would be no need for these highly imaginative and creative detectives.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive British Mystery Oct. 20 2007
By Gary Griffiths - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If Ken Bruen's east London crime novels featuring the brutal and boorish Inspector Brant are literature as rugby, then Christopher Fowler's mysteries of the aging Brant and May detective duo are symphonies. Both entertaining, but Bruen is jarring and violent where Fowler is refined, cultured, and subtle. Fowler writes the classic British mystery: dryly humorous, understated, unadorned, and intelligent. In this outing, inspectors Arthur Brant and John May, the irascible and unorthodox heads of London's Peculiar Crimes Division, find themselves stranded in a freak blizzard on the moors of southern England, leaving Sergeant Janice Longbright in charge to solve the ultimate "murder in the inside-locked room" mystery of the team's chief forensic scientist. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose in the snowdrifts, keeping our discerning duo occupied between cell phone-assist calls to Longbright and her short-handed crew. But despite facing simultaneous murder investigations and answering some nagging questions about the apparent drug overdose death of a young woman whose body occupies the morgue, the real terror facing the PCU team is the looming stationhouse tour of an insufferable princess and PCU nemesis Oskar Kasavian, the London PD bureaucrat bent on shutting the renegade crime-solving unit down.

Rich in allegory and clever forensics, contemporary crime fiction's most eccentric inspectors plough through deliciously convoluted threads of seemingly unrelated mysteries, taking a few keenly twisted turns before arriving at a clever and, at least for me, a totally unexpected climax. Brilliant character development and sharp, witty, dialogue add up for one of the year's most engaging and enjoyable crime novels. If you haven't met Brant and May yet, this is as good a place as any to start - and chances are you'll not remain a stranger.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now is the time to familiarize yourself with a series that is on its way to becoming an institution July 16 2007
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am probably too old to be using the term "sense of wonder," but I will when discussing Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May mysteries. Arthur Bryant and John May are well past retirement age, yet somehow they continue working as senior detectives for London's Peculiar Crimes Unit. The eccentric Bryant and enigmatic May are perfectly and at once matched and mismatched, and the crimes that their creator invents for them and their similarly strange co-workers to solve are such clever variations on a theme that one is usually enthralled within just a few pages of the beginning of the book.

WHITE CORRIDOR, the fifth installment in the Bryant & May series, differs somewhat from its predecessors in that the mysteries confronting the two protagonists are not linked to one of their cases from the past but rather are firmly grounded in the present. The circumstances surrounding the offices of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are chaotic, to say the least, what with the imminent retirement of Unit Pathologist Oswald Finch, an unexpected tour from visiting royalty (which is crafted to shut down the PCU forever) and the closing of headquarters for one week while its wiring is brought up to 21st-century standards. Bryant schedules a weekend frolic of his own --- all too typically a convention of psychics --- dragging an extremely reluctant May along with him.

Naturally, everything that can go wrong does. A member of the PCU is found murdered in a locked room on-site, and at least one fellow member had motive and opportunity to commit the crime. Meanwhile, Bryant and May find themselves stuck in their van in the middle of a snowstorm in the Dartmouth countryside, even as a shadowy murderer prowls the landscape around them, wreaking terror on other trapped motorists. Bryant and May accordingly are challenged with double duty, attempting to solve one crime while tackling the other via cell phone, even as the PCU faces their gravest threat yet to being disbanded.

Both plot- and character-driven, WHITE CORRIDOR demonstrates that Fowler has no intention of letting this imaginatively conceived and craftily written series succumb to formulaic familiarity. One never knows from page to page what Bryant will do or say. And May? Even as he plays foible to Bryant, it appears from hints dropped in the book that May has enough secrets to keep the series going for years. If you haven't jumped on the Bryant & May train yet, now is the time to familiarize yourself with a series that is on its way to becoming an institution.

--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total Enjoyment March 9 2008
By Blue in Washington - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Happy to report that (from my perspective) the previous enthusiastic Amazon reviews of "White Corridor," which led me to buy the book, were right on the money. So thanks to those eight and let me add my own applause for this book which is throughly inventive, original and engaging from the first page. Author Fowler has a real knack for the slow revealing of clues that ultimately solve/resolve the several mysteries at work in this book. Also of real interest to me were the wonderful character sketches provided in the book. There are a lot of players here and even the secondary participants are well described and presented for the reader.
This was altogether a great find and encourages me to try other books in the series.
ARRAY(0xb73a2804)

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