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The Water Room: Bryant & May Mysteries    by Christopher Fowler order for
Water Room
by Christopher Fowler
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2005 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Two London detectives, both beyond the statutory retirement age, have been partnered for fifty-odd years. They may be senior citizens, but Arthur Bryant and John May are 'legends in their own time', known for solving the trickiest cases, albeit using unorthodox and unauthorized methods. The duo make their second appearance (after Full Dark House) in Christopher Fowler's The Water Room. They are members of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU), which is not under the auspices of the MET, who would love to close them down.

London is facing threatening downpours, during a record rainiest season ever. A former colleague, Benjamin Singh, approaches Bryant after finding his elderly sister dead in the basement of her rundown house in Kentish Town. Ruth Singh is found sitting, hands in her lap, and fully-dressed for an outing, despite being a recluse. River water in her throat leads to an assumption of drowning. Bryant and May are convinced of unnatural causes, yet no clues or forensic support are found at the scene, and no motive is apparent. May approaches the death from the perspective of his connection with rambling academic, Gareth Greenwood, who has been probing London's vast underground, old waterways, and river systems, and has been retained as guide to a mysterious Egyptian, searching for the 'Five Rivers of the Underworld'. Bryant and May have barely initiated the Singh investigation, when strange deaths claim two more residents of the same street. Complicating matters are suspicious real estate developers, racist threats, troubled marriages, and an alliance of Egyptian antiquarians. Then Kallie Owen is persuaded to buy the Singh house. Kallie senses a sinister presence there, and hears a continuous noise of flowing, rushing water.

Christopher Fowler is known for horror fiction, fantasy, and short thrillers. The mystery genre has garnered him a new reading audience. The Water Room is a complex read, with a clever story line, first-class pacing, and intriguing historical tidbits, such as on London's underground river system. Though I found some of the extraneous historical discourses tedious, I enjoyed the dialog between the partners (who are opposites), and the author's prose eloquence. Fowler's investigative duo will be back soon in Seventy-Seven Clocks.

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