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Christopher Fowler Locked Room Titles

fowlerChristopher Fowler (born 1953) is an English mystery and thriller writer. 

Christopher was born in Greenwich, London, and now lives in King’s Cross, London. He attended Colfes, the Royal Leathersellers Guild School, and after joined J Walter Thompson as a copywriter. At the age of 26 he founded The Creative Partnership, a company that changed the face of UK and international film marketing, and spent many years working in film, creating movie posters, trailers and documentaries.

Though Fowler has written many novels, at Locked Room Mystery we are primarily interested in Fowler as the author of the Bryant and May mysteries, featuring two rather unusual detectives, Arthur Bryant and John May, both octogenarians who are members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, a special unit designed to investigate bizarre crimes and incidents. They are portrayed as the perfect odd couple of polar opposites which attract, though they long ago found a working harmony somewhere between Bryant’s blatant eccentricities and lateral thinking and May’s flawed common man image, backed up by his common sense logic. Together they have forged a crime fighting partnership that has been unravelling seemingly impossible crimes for several decades before the timeline of this series even begins, with several of the novels being reminiscences of their past glories. And, if this charming pair of detectives is not sufficient to arouse your interest, these novels are all set against the backdrop of grimy, vibrant, enchanting, London, which Fowler has clearly made the third star of this very engaging series.

While some of these cases are technically not locked rooms, nor are they all completely impossible crimes, each case is so bizarre that we simply must slightly bend the rules and include their intoxicating magic in the locked room genre. This series is, quite simply, one of the best modern mystery series of any persuasion, and right up there in the ranks of locked room and impossible crime literature, with genre greats like Rawson, Crispin, and Carr!

As we already noted, the set is London, with stories taking place in various years between World War II and the present, and while there is a progressive narrative, many of the books focus on flashbacks to major incidents from the detectives’ shared past. For instance, Full Dark House, the first in the series, focuses on John May’s reminiscence of the team’s first case together during the Blitz, while Seventy Seven Clocks is framed as Arthur Bryant’s retelling of a case from 1973. Bryant and May, also appear in Fowler’s Rune, Darkest Day, and Soho Black, although these books are not considered part of the series.

Fowler weaves many factual layers of London’s history and society throughout the series. Most of the locations are recognizable London landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, The Tate Gallery and various theatres. A major feature of The Water Room is the networks of tunnels and underground rivers beneath the city.

There are also many references to other literary works throughout the series. Seventy-Seven Clocks contains references to Gilbert and Sullivan throughout the narrative, while The Victoria Vanishes has similarities with The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin.

Edited from Wikipedia

More on Christopher Fowler

Fowler on Locked Room

Christopher Fowler website

History of Bryant & May


Notes: re Bryant and May

As all the Bryant and May novels are about extremely bizarre crimes, no attempt has been made to separate the locked room and impossible crime stories. The listings below include the complete series. To my mind, all of this series should be considered as part of the locked  room / impossible genre, though some volumes may test our standard definitions. I will therefore leave the reader to determine how these fantastic novels should be categorized.

Fowler has also written dozens of short stories and novels, not included in the Bryant and May series, if you know of any locked room or impossible crime stories in this huge collection, please let us know!

Christopher Fowler Bryant & May Novels

FULL-DARKFull Dark House (2003)
Detective: Bryant & May #1

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Note: A very bizarre series of murders!

When Arthur Bryant is blown up in his office and all that’s left of him is his false teeth, his partner John May looks for clues to his death. The hunt takes him back through the years to the unit’s foundation, the worst day of the blitz, and a murder investigation in the Palace Theatre, where an outrageous production of ‘Orpheus In The Underworld’ is being staged, and where the principle dancer has been found without her feet.

Everyone in the theatre is a suspect. Soon there are more bizarre deaths, and as our argumentative young detectives track their elusive quarry through the blackout, the fog and the bombs, they unwittingly follow the pattern of the play, chasing Orpheus to Hades…

waterroom2The Water Room (2004)
Detective: Bryant & May #2

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Note: How can an elderly woman drown in a chair in her dry basement? 

Bryant & May’s investigation of a secret world beneath London begins when a woman is found in a dry basement with her throat full of river-water. In the quiet street where she lives, the residents are unsettled by the sound of rushing water. Further impossible deaths reveal a connection to the lost underground rivers of London, and a disgraced academic hunts an ancient secret that will soon be lost within the forgotten canals. Meanwhile it won’t stop raining, there’s a flood coming, and nobody’s house is safe as Bryant and May head beneath the city to stop a murderer from striking again.

77 clocksSeventy-Seven Clocks (2005)
Detective: Bryant & May #3

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Note: Crazy ways to murder!

Arthur Bryant, writing his memoirs, recalls a case from 1973. As strikes and blackouts ravage the country, a rare painting is vandalised in the National Gallery, and members of a high-born family are killed in a variety of lunatic ways – by tiger, bomb and barber.

As the hours of daylight diminish towards winter’s shortest day, Bryant & May discover that a Victorian legacy holds the key. It’s a mystery that leads behind the sealed doors of ancient London’s guilds and to a murderous legacy of British imperialism. Time is running out for the detectives, unless they can find the seventy seven clocks…

ten second staircaseTen Second Staircase (2006)
Detective: Bryant & May #4

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Note: A classic locked room mystery!

When a controversial artist is found dead in her own art installation, inside a riverside gallery with locked doors and windows, the only witness is a small boy who insists that the murderer was a masked man riding a stallion.

Then a television presenter is struck by lightning while indoors… clearly, they’re the kind of impossible crimes that only Bryant & May can solve. But Bryant has lost his nerve following a disastrous public appearance, and May is fighting to keep the unit from closure.

With a sinister modern-day highwayman bringing terror to the London streets, the detectives track their suspects to an exclusive school and a deprived housing estate. But the highwayman starts to become a national hero, and the public turns against them…

Exploring the dark side of celebrity, the conflicts of youth and class, and the peculiar myths of old London, Bryant & May are back on the case with a vengeance…

white corridorWhite Corridor (2007)
Detective: Bryant & May #5

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Note: A PCU staff member murdered in a locked autopsy room!

It’s an “impossible” crime – a member of the Peculiar Crimes Unit killed inside a locked autopsy room populated only by the dead – and only four PCU members had a key.

The unthinkable has happened at London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit. A key member of the staff has been found murdered, and everyone who works there is suddenly a suspect. But Arthur Bryant and John May aren’t on hand to solve the crime. They’re stranded on a desolate snowbound section of country road. As the blizzard worsens, they attempt to solve the crime long distance using only their mobile phones.

Unfortunately, their situation is about to worsen. Unknown to the stranded detectives, an obsessed killer has travelled from the Riviera to Dartmoor, and is stalking the stranded vehicles, searching for one particular victim, coming closer with each passing minute…

As if it didn’t have enough trouble, the Peculiar Crimes unit is about to receive a demanding royal visitor, and the Home Office is preparing to shut the PCU down when the visit inevitably goes wrong…

Two murderers, two incapacitated detectives, just six hours to solve two crimes and save the unit. Armed only with their wits, woolly coats and a stack of dubious veal and ham pies, Bryant & May are bracing themselves for a day trapped inside the white corridor…

Victoria VanishesThe Victoria Vanishes (2008)
Detective: Bryant & May #6

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Note: Time travels?

It begins with a life lost on a London street; a middle-aged woman collapses outside a public house called The Victoria Cross. Yet it becomes one of the most disturbing cases the Peculiar Crimes Unit has ever undertaken…

Arthur Bryant passes the woman just before she dies. But when he returns to the scene a few hours later, nothing is how he remembers it. For a start, the busy nineteenth century pub is now a supermarket. The elderly detective’s greatest fear is that he might be losing his mind. After all, he managed to mislay a friend’s funeral urn on the same night.

While Bryant faces some home truths about perception and memory, his partner John May investigates a similar death occurring in a busy London pub. A killer is taking lives in the city’s safest and most convivial places, but how is he doing it, and why?

The detective’s search involves arcane mysteries, secret societies, line-dancing, speed dating, hidden insanity, and the solution of London’s most extraordinary forgotten conundrum. But naming the murderer is only the beginning of their problems, because closing the case means performing the impossible…

Christopher Fowler’s legendary detectives are at the peak of their powers, as their unit enters its darkest hour.

on the looseBryant and May on the Loose (2009)
Detective: Bryant & May #7

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Note: A devilish developer?

Londoners are losing their heads, and  on the perimeter of a massive construction site near King’s Cross, a gigantic figure has been spotted – dressed in deerskin and sporting antlers made of knives! 

In rush-hour King’s Cross, one of the busiest crossing points in Britain, finding a murderer would be a nightmare for any force. But when a decapitated body is found in a shop freezer, London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit is not summoned – because the unit has been disbanded, and elderly detectives Bryant & May have no access to evidence that can help them find a killer. The situation worsens with the appearance of a second headless body.

And something is disturbing the area’s property developers. Half-man, half-beast, the figure appears at night on building sites in the mystical image of a forgotten legend. The detectives uncover the pagan secrets of the historic streets and start to discern a pattern. But the sinister solution will lead them to the heart of the city’s oldest mystery… who really owns the London landscape? As they get close to the truth, Bryant & May make a very bad enemy indeed.

Everyone’s favourite elderly detectives are back, out of the system and on the loose, searching for body parts, behaving disgracefully and exposing London’s most closely guarded secret – a secret kept by the ground upon which the city itself is built…

off the railsBryant & May Off the Rails (2010)
Detective: Bryant & May #8

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Note: A ghost in the underground?

London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit has been given a week to clear its backlog of investigations. But the only mystery on their books looks like a mundane accident – a young mother falls down the escalator in a rush-hour tube station, in full view of commuters and cameras. Still, detectives Arthur Bryant and John May are nagged by the doubt that something wicked has occurred.

When a clue links a second corpse to the London Underground, Bryant needs no excuse to start investigating the strange history of forgotten stations, ghosts and suicides, as a seemingly trivial clue sends him searching for a clever killer who always covers his tracks. With the suspect list spreading to include a household of students, it seems everyone has secrets to hide. And who is the sinister night crawler spotted in the tunnels after the last train has pulled out?

It’s a mystery Bryant & May were born to solve. With the Peculiar Crimes Unit roaring back into business in new premises, everyone’s favourite elderly detectives are heading down onto the darkened platforms of the world’s oldest underground railway to hunt murderers. To solve the puzzle they must explore an unseen world, uncover hidden histories and stop a ruthless killer from striking again. But the biggest shock is discovering that nothing is ever as it appears.

memory bloodBryant and May and the Memory of Blood (2011)
Detective: Bryant & May #9

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Note: Child murdered in a locked room!

On a rainswept London night, the wealthy unscrupulous Robert Kramer hosts a party in his penthouse just off Trafalgar Square. But something is wrong. The atmosphere is uncomfortable, the guests are on edge. And when Kramer’s new young wife goes to check on their baby boy, she finds the nursery door locked from the inside.

Breaking in, the Kramers are faced with an open window, an empty cot, and a grotesque antique puppet of Mr Punch lying on the floor. It seems that young Noah Kramer was thrown from the building, but the child was strangled, and the marks of the puppet’s hands are clearly on his throat…what’s more, there was a witness.

It’s a perfect case for the Peculiar Crimes Unit. As John May and his team interrogate the guests, Arthur Bryant heads into the secret world of automata and stagecraft, illusions and effects. His suspicions fall on the staff of Kramer’s company, who have been employed to stage a gruesome new thriller in the West End. As a second impossible death occurs, the detectives uncover forgotten museums and London eccentrics, and take a trip to a seaside Punch & Judy show.

Then Bryant’s biographer suddenly dies. Was it a tragic accident, or could the circumstances of her death be related to the case? There’s just one hour left to solve the crime, but Bryant has buried himself away with his esoteric books. The stage is set for a race against time with a surprising twist…

invisible-codeBryant & May and The Invisible Code (2012)
Detective: Bryant & May #10

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Note: An impossible murder… in church?

‘You need to start acting your age, Mr Bryant.’

‘If I did that, I’d be dead.’

As detective Arthur Bryant’s memoirs are published, he starts to feel his age. But a case is coming that will change his life. A young woman called Amy sits in a quiet London church, and is found dead in her pew after the service. But no-one has been near her. She has no marks on her body and the cause of death is unknown. The only odd thing is that she had a red cord tied around her left wrist.

At a government dinner party to welcome heads of state, the wife of civil servant Oskar Kasavian gets drunk and insults the gathering. She believes she has been made a social outcast by her husband’s friends because she is a foreigner from a lower class. Angered by the invisible code that governs British class behaviour, she continues to behave so badly that she is eventually sectioned.

But Bryant thinks she is being victimised. Soon he is investigating Hellfire clubs, class warfare, secret codes and the history of Bedlam. Then the wife is found dead with a red cord around her wrist. In the biggest case of their careers, Bryant & May take on the establishment itself, knowing that they cannot possibly win.

bleeding heartBryant & May and the Bleeding Heart (2014)
Detective: Bryant & May #11

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Note: The dead are rising from their graves!

Romain Curtis sneaks into St. George’s Gardens one evening with his date, planning to show her the stars. A centuries-old burial ground, the small, quiet park is the perfect place to be alone. Yet the night takes a chilling turn when the two teenagers spy a strange figure rising from among the tombstones: a corpse emerging from the grave. Suffice it to say that wherever there’s a dead man walking, Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit are never far behind.

As the PCU investigates the sighting, a second urgent matter requires their unusual brand of problem-solving. Seven ravens have gone missing from their historic home in the Tower of London, and legend has it that when the ravens disappear, England will fall. Bryant has been tasked with recovering the lost birds, but when Romain is suddenly found dead, the two seemingly separate mysteries start to intertwine and point to a plot more sinister than anyone could ever imagine.

Soon Bryant and May find themselves immersed in London’s darkest lore, from Victorian-era body snatchers, to arcane black magic, to the grisly myth behind Bleeding Heart Yard, a courtyard long associated with murder. And as the body count spikes and more coffins are unearthed, they will have to dig deep to catch a killer and finally lay these cases to rest.

burning manBryant & May and The Burning Man (2015)
Detective: Bryant & May #12

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Note: The return of Guy Fawkes?

In the week before Guy Fawkes Night, London’s peaceful streets break out in sudden unrest. Enraged by a scandal involving a corrupt financier accused of insider trading, demonstrators are rioting outside the Findersbury Private Bank, chanting, marching, and growing violent. But when someone hurls a Molotov cocktail at the bank’s front door, killing a homeless man on its steps, Bryant, May, and the rest of the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in. Is this an act of protest gone terribly wrong? Or a devious, premeditated murder?

Their investigation heats up when a second victim is reported dead in similar fiery circumstances. May discovers the latest victim has ties to the troubled bank, and Bryant refuses to believe this is mere coincidence. As the riots grow more intense and the body count climbs, Bryant and May hunt for a killer who’s adopting incendiary methods of execution, on a snaking trail of clues with roots in London’s history of rebellion, anarchy, and harsh justice. Now, they’ll have to throw themselves in the line of fire before the entire investigation goes up in smoke.

Bryant and May Short Fiction

B&M casebookThe Casebook of Bryant & May (2013)
Detective: Bryant & May

Collection: The Casebook of Bryant & May 

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Note: Two stories, crime profiles, Bryant’s bookshelves and more!

Bryant & May chase after the murderous Soho Devil, and search for the owner of a severed hand. Two stories, plus crime profiles, Mr Bryant’s bookshelves, alternative covers and lots more!


How to Invent a Mystery Series
Introduction by Christopher Fowler

The Soho Devil
Arthur Bryant’s Secret Library
The Severed Claw
The Peculiar Crimes Unit Sketch Book

The Strange Cases of Bryant & May

londons gloryBryant & May: London’s Glory 
Detective: Bryant & May

Collection: London’s Glory

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Note: Available in UK – eBook to be released in March 2016

In every detective’s life there are cases that can’t be discussed, and throughout the Bryant & May novels there have been mentions of some of these such as the Deptford Demon or the Little Italy Whelk Smuggling Scandal.

Now Arthur Bryant has decided to open the files on eleven of these previously unseen investigations that required the collective genius and unique modus operandi of Arthur Bryant and John May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit – investigations that range from different times (London during the Great Smog) and a variety of places: a circus freak show, on board a London Tour Bus and even a yacht off the coast of Turkey.

And in addition to these eleven classic cases, readers are also given a privileged look inside the Peculiar Crimes Unit (literally, with a cut away drawing of their offices), a guide to the characters of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, and access to the contents of Arthur Bryant’s highly individual library.

Full contents list not yet available.

Early non-series Bryant and May appearances

runeRune (1991)
Detective: Bryant and May appear



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Note: Runic curses!

In this horror novel, laced with black humour and with a cast of eccentric characters, an evil power is using ancient runic curses, combined with modern technology in a bid to control mankind. The author has previously written “Roofworld” and “The Bureau of Lost Souls”, a set of short stories.

darkest dayDarkest Day (1993)
Detective: Bryant and May appear



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Note: Essentially an early version of Seventy -seven clocks

When one of the guests at London’s Savoy Hotel, where Jerry Gates works, dies in bizarre circumstances, she finds herself drawn into a nightmare world of blackmail, violence and ritual murder. She has stumbled into a conspiracy involving rare art, computers and a secret occult society.

soho blackSoho Black (1999)
Detective: Bryant and May appear



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Note: Welcome to Soho!

Welcome to Soho. London’s creative square mile, a bedlam of business and backstabbing, where dreams are manufactured and office workers get off their faces. A place where being a celebrity means treating every day as your last.

Movie executive Richard Tyler is strung out, stressed up, and sinking fast. He owes money to film-freak thugs, thanks to debts stacked up by his card-charging girlfriend, who has been shagging his belligerent boss, who has just fired him.

Could things get any worse?

During one particularly hypertense evening, Richard drops dead in the middle of a fashionable Soho bar. What happens next mortifies his friends and horrifies his enemies, as Richard’s lifestyle of power-lunches and parties changes overnight into a fast-track trip into career hell …

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