The Water Room by Christopher Fowler

The Water Room is the second in a series of novels about two elderly detectives, Arthur Bryant and John May, who work for the Peculiar Crimes Unit, a branch of the London Metropolitan Police specialising in unusual cases. Bryant and May have been working together since the 1940s and have formed a strong and effective partnership, combining Bryant’s eccentricity and lateral thinking with May’s common sense and more logical approach.

When Mrs Singh is found drowned in the seemingly dry basement of her home in Balaklava Street with her mouth full of river water, her brother, who is an old friend of Arthur Bryant’s, asks the Peculiar Crimes Unit for help. But no sooner have Bryant and May begun to investigate than another bizarre incident occurs in the same street. Meanwhile, the new owner of Mrs Singh’s house is being plagued by the sound of rushing water in the basement and damp patches appearing and disappearing on the walls. What is going on?

I read the first book in this series, Full Dark House, a couple of months ago and loved it, but I thought this one was even better. This is a series that I would particularly recommend to people who love London. I’m not familiar enough with London to fully appreciate everything in these novels, but Christopher Fowler’s love and knowledge of the city is obvious on every page. Full Dark House looked at the city’s theatrical world; in this book the focus is on the underground rivers that run under the streets of London. During the course of Bryant and May’s investigations we learn lots of little facts about these lost rivers and the mythology surrounding them. The historical information is woven into the plot throughout the book and I thought the balance between education and entertainment was just right.

This is not a very fast-paced book and does require some concentration, but the story moves along steadily and has a few surprising twists. The mystery plot was quite a good one, with plenty of clues and red herrings that seemed to implicate almost everybody in the street at one point or another. But the highlight of these books for me is the partnership of Bryant and May themselves and the dialogue between them.

As well as being part of a series, The Water Room is a complete mystery novel in itself and it’s not necessary to have read Full Dark House first. However, if you’re concerned about coming across spoilers it would be a good idea to start at the beginning of the series. After enjoying the first two books so much I’m sure I’ll be reading the others and am looking forward to meeting Mr Bryant and Mr May again in Seventy-Seven Clocks.

I received a copy of this book for review from Transworld as part of the Transworld Book Group.

7 thoughts on “The Water Room by Christopher Fowler

  1. Jo says:

    Great review. I agree you do need to concentrate on the novels in places, but you do learn quite a lot along the way. I knew nothing of these rivers underground. Fascinating.

    I think this a series that I will come back to and read the next one knowing what I am going to get or perhaps not knowing that is the beauty of them.

  2. Richard Reeder says:

    I love crime novels set in London. Underground rivers, imagine that! Great review, I’m going to read both books before my visit to London next year so that I can recognize the locales during my toodling around.

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