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Seventy-Seven Clocks: A Bryant & May Mystery    by Christopher Fowler order for
Seventy-Seven Clocks
by Christopher Fowler
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May are back (having appeared in Christopher Fowler's earlier mystery thrillers, Full Dark House and The Water Room), and they are involved in another unusual and absorbing case.

When Seventy-Seven Clocks begins in 1973, a mysterious man who appears to be dressed in the period costume of a Victorian gentleman inexplicably destroys a painting in London's National Gallery and then avoids being captured by the gallery's security officers.

Meanwhile, in another section of London, a fifty-nine year old lawyer dies in the lobby of the prestigious Savoy Hotel after apparently having been the victim of a perverse crime about which there seem to be no useful clues.

Given the sensitive and peculiar nature of the incidents - the rather unique painting was on loan from the Australian government, and the autopsy of the dead lawyer reveals some rather startling facts - Bryant and May, the odd couple detectives from the city's Peculiar Crimes Unit, are called into action.

May, the surprisingly handsome, fashionably dressed, immaculately groomed veteran policeman is fascinated with gadgets, classic cars, and science fiction. His partner, the obsessively organized Bryant, appears considerably more shopworn than May. Fond of music and fearful of technology, the eccentric Bryant nevertheless is the perfect partner for May. Together, in spite of their clashing personalities, they can solve even the most difficult cases.

But the case at the National Gallery and the Savoy Hotel turn out to be more than just a little surprising. They are, in fact, closely related cases, so Bryant and May have designed what they see as a simple, straight-forward strategy: Solve one and solve the other. Their investigative plans, however, are quickly complicated by a series of bizarre murders involving bombs, cutlery, poison, and a marshland reptile. Then, when pornography, Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, and secret societies become keys to the investigation, Bryant and May find themselves up against a killer with a dark and troubled history. And - in what ultimately becomes a race against the clock - Bryant and May must solve the case and stop the killer before times runs out for everyone involved.

Seventy-Seven Clocks is a fast-paced thriller with an imaginative plot, gothic atmosphere, eccentric characters, and plenty of quirky humor. This latest Bryant and May mystery is an absolutely riveting whodunit, and Christopher Fowler is most clearly a new master of the classic detective story. Enjoy!

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