Reader reviews for Ten Second Staircase: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery

Although this is not the first book in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series, it's the one I started with. Getting into the series was made easier by an introduction to the history and purpose of the unit in the very beginning of this book. I did feel as though I were missing a few references to events past, but I don't think any of the previous books' plots were spoiled by this one. The mystery kicks off with a bizzarre start and builds up well, but you probably could have guessed at the ending about halfway through the book and gotten it right, which is a shame because I was hoping for a much stronger resolution than the one Fowler provides. In any case, the strength of this novel really lies in the characters of the PCU. Bryant and May (especially Bryant) really steal the show, but even the secondary players were interesting. All in all: solid and entertaining, if somewhat loopy, plot, memorable characters, disappointing finish. I would buy this one as a paperback, not hardcover.
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Fourth in this rather bizarre mystery series, Ten Second Staircase finds our somewhat rather unorthodox detectives Bryant and May facing the possible end of the Peculiar Crimes Unit (now with a new member -- May's agoraphobic granddaughter April) just when they become involved in a series of improbable and impossible crimes -- you know, the ones just up their alley. This time, they are faced with a villain they call The Highwayman, because an eyewitness to the murder of an artist saw a man dressed in cape, tricorn hat and black boots sitting on a stallion -- fresh out of the poem by Alfred Noyes. After the highwayman is seen at several other improbable murders, the PCU has to use all of the resources at hand to catch the killer, which its members hope will keep the unit afloat. While this is a rather fun mystery which keeps the reader guessing until the end, it's also a bit of a commentary on the nature of crime, criminals and the current state of police forces everywhere. The writing is, as usual, quite good, the quirky characterizations are excellent, and the plot is improbable (but yet compelling) enough to keep readers trying to guess the outcome. Definitely a book for mystery readers who enjoy a bit of zaniness and improbability along with a well-plotted central mystery. If you're a hard-core mystery reader, this may seem a bit silly, but it is most definitely worth the time it takes to read. But do not start with this one if you're considering this series...the books should definitely be read in order because of the character development and because of events which are referred to that occurred in the PCU's past. Overall -- a fun read and an awesome series.
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I was first introduced to Fowler by a fellow horror fan through a book called "Spanky" which isn't the kind of fetish erotica the cover would have you believe. It's a brilliant Faustian tale. Anyway that led me to investigate the author further and it turns out he has a very popular crime series, about a quirky pair of aged detectives Bryant & May (sounds like a brand of cigarettes so immediately memorable). These two along with a small but loyal team make up London's Peculiar Crimes Team. This is not supernatural fiction, ok the first time I met them there were zombies, but since then these have been straight crime fic. Good old fashioned detecting by a couple of total oddballs. The characters are lovingly created and I defy anyone not to become fond of them reading these novels. The plots are suitably complex and challenging, but of course we see more than the detectives do so I found I was putting things together a few pages before Bryant and May. Of course that meant I came to the wrong conclusions first too (seriously i'm as mystery writers dream I take all the red herrings home for tea). The detail of London is fascinating and intricate but slipped in so naturally as the cases are examined and the cast of oddballs that Bryant consults add a richness to the novels. I love London, i've been many times over the years and have always been enchanted with it, Fowler's tidbits just serve to deepen that enchantment.This is not the fast paced uber graphic violent crime fiction of present, it's gentler, a little noir and a little Agatha Christie, detecting by talking to people and digging through bits of paper, the forensics is generally fairly straightforward and the crime scene technology typical of an overstretched under funded slightly embarrassing department. The characters are the real joy, Arthur Bryant with his pipe and clairvoyants and hackers, John May with his determination to keep up with computers and mobile phones and his balancing affect on his partner, Longbright in her 50's wardrobe and full makeup and he rest of the team, loyal, diligent and a little offbeat.Ten-Second Staircase is based around a private boys school and a council estate in London, minor but contentious celebrities are being murdered in elaborate ways and the witness statements all point towards a Highwayman. How do you capture a myth? This case also brings the unresolved Vampire case to the fore, a case which has already nearly destroyed the friendship between the two detectives once and up against all this, the Home Office is trying to shut them down. I promise it's really not supernatural. It's wonderful. I love it and am decidedly pleased to have a couple more from this series in the TBR pile.
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One of the best entries in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series (#4) - all the most entertaining attributes of curmudgeonly Arthur Bryant and sensitive John May are on display with crackling dialogue and a true stumper of a case with possible connections to an old unsolved case that has haunted Bryant and May for years. The support characters in the PCU are well-drawn and interesting and Fowler weaves in just enough London history to give depth and meaning to the crimes and to Bryant and May's commitment to their careers, even when their superiors are determined to shut them down. The audiobook narrator does an excellent job capturing Bryant's archaic rudeness and May's tolerant exasperation.
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This was a great "read". I have been listening to it for the last 6 weeks or so, so it has taken me quite a while to get through it but I've never thought of abandoning it.Christopher Fowler delights in giving the reader/listener intellectual puzzles to solve. He has set TEN-SECOND STAIRCASE against a background of London's history. For example what do Robin Hood, Dick Turpin, and Jack the Ripper have in common? After reading TEN-SECOND STAIRCASE you'll know.Arthur Bryant is getting on, undoubtedly, like John May, coming to end of his career. He accepts an invitation to address boys at the local St. Crispin's College. He is meant to encourage them to be law-abiding and to be careful about what he says. He has a history of provoking people. He really doesn't understand why his audience, in essence privileged and moneyed adolescents, becomes angry and he has to be escorted from the school by teachers. So, in a sense, one of the themes of TEN-SECOND STAIRCASE is about the collision of values of the older generation with those of current adolescents.Arthur Bryant in particular is an oddity with an antiquarian knowledge of a most peculiar kind. His pronouncements contribute to a level of humour in the Bryant & May series that is unusual in crime fiction of the generally serious kind. It part of what makes this book a delightful read.
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Very good. As good as the first three of this series, probably a little better. We see a little more character development here and get some real answers about what happened in John May's past to cause his family situation to be so strange.
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The 'Peculiar Crimes Unit' investigate a series of 'impossible crimes' committed by 'The Highwayman', a killer that wears the full regalia of the aforesaid historical character and who seems to be able to appear and disappear at will. In a number of murders that seemingly just could not have happened, Bryant and May try to make sense of the crimes and to find the murderer.Clever, yes,perhaps a little too clever for it's own good.
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