The invisible code : a Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery

by Christopher Fowler

Hardcover, 2013




New York : Bantam Books, [2013?]


Two small children are playing a game called 'Witch-Hunter'. They place a curse on a young woman taking lunch in a church courtyard and wait for her to die. An hour later she is found dead inside the church. Bryant and May must investigate.

User reviews

LibraryThing member MaineColonial
In the churchyard of London's St. Bride's Church, a young woman sits reading until, driven away by the annoyance of two young children, she enters the church's nave. Minutes later, she collapses and dies. The children report that they were playing a game of "witch hunter" and put a curse on her that killed her.

When the autopsy fails to identify a specific cause of death, Arthur Bryant of the Home Office's Peculiar Crimes Unit naturally wants the case. But the Metropolitan Police have jurisdiction and the PCU, being persona non grata in the Home Office, lack the power to take over.

Certainly their enemy-in-chief, the satanic Oscar Kasavian, isn't about to lift a finger to help them. He has vowed to wipe out the PCU and, particularly its beyond-retirement-age leads, Arthur Bryant and John May. Imagine Bryant and May's surprise, then, when Kasavian almost humbly asks them to help him with a problem involving his young wife.

As Bryant and May and the rest of the PCU team begin to investigate, the case takes on ever larger proportions. Government corruption, whistleblowers in private industry, mental illness and its history in London, private clubs, Russian gangsters, codes and ciphers and the supernatural are all thrown into the heady mix. On top of all that, there are disquieting revelations of how the British class system, cronyism and the complete disregard of commercial/government conflicts of interest conspire to ensure that a cabal of venal and ruthless men stay in power in British government.

But this is no grim, deadly serious police procedural. With the PCU, that's just not possible. Arthur Bryant is the absent-minded fellow with his latest meal evidenced down the front of his clothes and his cell phone made unusable by the melted sweets on it. He can't understand why people take exception to his conducting experiments at home and in the office involving things like pig carcasses and explosives. John May is Bryant's opposite: sartorially impeccable, careful to massage egos when necessary and a believer that the simplest answer is usually the right one. Despite their vast differences, Bryant and May make an effective team and, as always, they go right down to the wire in their investigation.

This tenth book in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series is notable for its use of London settings in the story. Descriptions of churches, museums, streets and history bring the city alive. This was a particularly satisfying story, one of my absolute favorites in the series. I laughed aloud several times but, as always with this series, I learned a lot and I was touched by the very human members of the team and the people they deal with.

This book can be read as a standalone, but I would suggest that at the very least, you read the previous book, The Memory of Blood: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery (Peculiar Crimes Unit Mysteries), first. There are certain plot issues that come out of that book and it will make The Invisible Code that much more satisfying to know about them. Best of all, though, would be to read the whole series from the beginning, starting with Full Dark House: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery.
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LibraryThing member Ronrose1
From the syntax, to the humor, and the subject matter, this is thoroughly British, not one of the washed out versions we are used to seeing portrayed by American television or books. Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May work for the Peculiar Crimes Unit. They get involved in cases that are, how shall we say, out of the ordinary. This is rather fitting for Detective Bryant, as he is a bit out of the ordinary himself. Unlike his partner May, Bryant is older, pushing the boundaries of retirement. He is subject to memory lapses and gastric eruptions. His thought processes are a mystery to most of his colleagues, but his successes in solving the strangest cases are legendary. He will need all of this as his long time nemesis, Oskar Kasavian, head of Home Office Security, has called him in on a private investigation. Kasavian's trophy wife, Sabira, is having manic episodes, lashing out at the wives of her husband's colleagues. She believes she is being stocked and that her life is in danger. . Detective Bryant is astounded that Kasavian would even consider asking the Peculiar Crimes Unit to help him, but Kasavian's job as head of Home Office Security is in the balance. Bryant also suspects there may be a connection with the mysterious death of a young woman in a local church. There are no clues to the cause of her death, but the woman was acting strangely just prior to collapsing in the church, a perfect case for the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Are the two cases connected? Detective Bryant is sure to find out. The book is good fun with some winning characters. Book provided for review by Bantam Books.… (more)
LibraryThing member jessicariddoch
Their seems to be lots of books arround at the moment where the police have a department for dealing with supernatural things. while many of them are quite repetative in story line this one stands out as one of the best i have read so far.
I see that it is part of a series of books so will have to hunt out some more but this book stood alone with none of the flashback feeling.… (more)
LibraryThing member westwoodrich
Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May return for their latest adventure in The Invisible Code. The eccentric and increasingly decrepit Peculiar Crimes Unit is handed their strangest assignment yet, a personal request from their arch-enemy Oskar Kasavian to protect his wife. As usual their investigation takes some obscure turns, leading them into the history of insanity and witchcraft. I liked it, but have a suspicion that the series is running out of steam.… (more)
LibraryThing member aadyer
A good, fun read that is paced well with a mounting crescendo near the end. Bryant & May are as amusing & erudite as always. Good plotting & occult goings on give this a very mysterious feel. Recommended if you get the time to be able to devote yourself to it in large chunks.
LibraryThing member westwoodrich
Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May return for their latest adventure in The Invisible Code. The eccentric and increasingly decrepit Peculiar Crimes Unit is handed their strangest assignment yet, a personal request from their arch-enemy Oskar Kasavian to protect his wife. As usual their investigation takes some obscure turns, leading them into the history of insanity and witchcraft. I liked it, but have a suspicion that the series is running out of steam.… (more)
LibraryThing member everfresh1
I haven't read previous novels from this series - and probably never will. I found plot somewhat convoluted and logic used to resolve the crime not very convincing. On the plus side I loved the character of Arthur Bryant, main investigator with all typical and wonderful British humor. The multiple historical references were also fascinating. I wish it would have a better plot.… (more)
LibraryThing member Beamis12
So glad for the opportunity to once again enter the world of Bryant and Mays, two elderly detectives, much maligned for their unorthodox ways, particularly Bryant whose ways of thinking cannot easily be discerned, and the other members that make up the Peculiar Crime Division.

For once they find themselves in the position of trying to help the man who most often wants to shut them down, Oskar, their boss and main critic. Fowler has mastered his craft, has come up with a winning combination of humor, aged detectives who are forced to operate in the modern world, much to Bryant;s continuous dismay, a wonderful story and quite a bit of history. The churches of London, St. Brides and others, the history of the various clubs throughout time and what they meant, Bedlam and some of the past treatments there and even a mention of rats and fleas and the notorious plague, as well as the existing class system..

His supporting staff is interesting as well, a white witch, a black witch, co-workers who are loners themselves and even a pregnant cat. Wonderfully entertaining, very well done and in this case the PCU hasS a chance to help themselves and their unit once again regain an acknowledged position of power. Of course, things are never as simple as they appear and are so very often deceiving, are they not?

ARC from NetGalley.
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LibraryThing member smik
I've been listening to this great audio book, driving the car, for about 2 months now, but today I couldn't wait any longer to hear the rest and listened to the last hour.

For those who haven't met the series before: London's Peculiar Crimes unit is always under threat of closure. Basically they deal with crimes no-one else likes and the principal detectives are the elderly Arthur Bryant and John May. Arthur certainly should have been retired twenty years ago but May has a great tolerance of his foibles.

What I like about these books is the complexity of the plots, the fact that there is almost always some historical detail that Arthur Bryant knows that relates to the murder being investigated. The appeal of the plots is related to the peculiarity of the crimes. Add to that the quirkiness of Arthur Bryant himself and the people he consults.

And running through it all, the author's sense of humour.

Tim Goodman does a wonderful job of the narration.
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LibraryThing member memccauley6
I have read a couple of these “Peculiar Crimes Unit” mysteries, and I enjoyed them – but to be perfectly honest, I just couldn’t muster up the interest to finish this one. I enjoyed the bits about Bryant and May’s personal lives and opinions, but the subject of the mystery was a spoiled, uncooperative woman, and I had absolutely no interest in reading any more about her. Sorry… (more)
LibraryThing member vcg610
The Invisible Code is a British police procedural novel with a twist. It is in fact, a part of a series called the Peculiar Crimes Mystery Unit. This is the 10th novel in the series, and I can hardly wait to delve backwards into the preceding mysteries.

Author Christopher Fowler has crafted witty dialog to go along with mysterious, sometimes bizarre plot lines. His two Senior detectives Arthur Bryant and John May, are older men who are accidentally hilarious, though fairly astute at cutting through the mystery to find resolution to the cases that come their way. In The Invisible Code, a young woman drops dead from unknown causes, but she had been reading Rosemary's Baby, and there were some children nearby playing witchcraft games at the time...

In a supposedly unrelated case, the Home Office politician that the two detectives disdain, Oskar Kasavian, calls them into his office to ask that they monitor and protect his stunningly beautiful Albanian wife, offering them "a permanent guarantee of official status within the City of London police structure," if they agree to take on this task. (See why I'm curious about what has happened in previous novels?) Mrs. Kasavian has apparently gotten mixed up with some witchcraft too.

I am happy to have discovered this author and this series, particularly since I see that one of Fowler's previous novels won the Crimefest's Last Laugh award for funniest mystery novel!
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LibraryThing member devenish
Bryant and May and amazed when Oskar Kasavian,their usually antagonistic boss asks them to investigate his wife.She is acting strangely and her behaviour is causing concern among the wives of his colleagues.
When several deaths occur which seem to be linked to Mrs Kasavian,the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are brought in.
As always,this is a well thought-out book which is unusual enough to be described as unique in crime fiction.
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LibraryThing member Unkletom
‘The Invisible Code’ is the 10 in a series of cozy mysteries featuring London-based detectives Arthur Bryant and John May of the oddly named Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU). While I own two other PCU books that were highly recommended, I haven’t yet read them making The Invisible Code the first of the series that I have read. While this book does refer to other cases that the team has worked on, it doesn’t do so in a way that makes the reader regret reading the series out of order. Other reviewers have suggested that one should read the book immediately preceding this one. While it may be wise to do so, it is by no means necessary.

Arthur Bryant and John May make up a delightful pair of old codgers whose cases date back to World War II. It’s hard to read about them and not think about Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo divided into two distinct halves, one left-brained and one right-brained, both with British accents. May’s thinking is more linear. He is the quintessential policeman. Bryant, on the other hand, seems to get more inspiration from a museum than a crime scene. His intuitive manner at looking at problems is often at odds with May’s belief in Occam’s razor add an impressive depth to the two characters.

In ‘The Invisible Code’, the PCU takes on two apparently unrelated cases. First is the unexplained death of a woman who dies in a church with two children claiming that the death is the result of an imaginative witch-hunter game they were playing. In the second case, May and Bryant are asked by a senior officer in the Home Office to investigate strange behavioral changes that his wife has been exhibiting. This latter case is sensitive as the official is in the middle of international trade negotiations that could be sidetracked by an embarrassing domestic scandal.

Bottom line: Bryant and May make up a delightful pair of investigators. The case is entertaining but not likely to make anyone’s top ten list.

*Quotations are cited from an advanced reading copy and may not be the same as appears in the final published edition. The review copy of this book was obtained from the publisher via the Amazon Vine Program.
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LibraryThing member scot2
I enjoy the Bryant & May books; they are such fun. I can see them as a television series. The brilliant , old detective employs solves the crimes in strange ways.
LibraryThing member LongDogMom
I have come to love this series and always enjoy reading them. This one in particular kept me guessing and surprised, right until the very end! The character of Arthur Bryant is real and fully formed that I can hear his voice in my head when he refers to his boss Raymond Land as "Raymondo" and approaches their cases with his insatiably curiousity (something I can certainly relate to!). It's easy to picture him in his messy office - almost like a cabinet of curiosities full of weird and unusual artifacts asm well as books on a variety of subject matter, none of which would normally seem pertinent in any way to a police detective! And then there's his partner May - sauve and sophisticated, the Yin to Bryant's Yang, or as Bryant puts it "the other half of my brain."! Their unconventional methods in solving their cases, and the bits of historical trivia scattered throughout is always fascinating. I hope Christopher Fowler continues to write many more adventures featuring the wonderfully quirky Peculiar Crimes Unit… (more)
LibraryThing member KerryMarsh
I was given a copy for my honest opinion and review. This is a well written and quite humorous look at the British Police Department. In this story, the "Peculiar Crimes Unit" is a branch of the London police assigned cases with a supernatural flavour, the unanswerable cases. In particular the case of an otherwise perfectly healthy woman who just dropped dead in a church for no apparent reason and "the Unit" are called in. The two main detectives, May and Bryant take on the case despite other parts of the Department trying to derail their efforts.… (more)



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