Book Review: The Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler

Posted July 19, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler
Genres: Detective, British, Mystery
Published by Bantam on December 17, 2013
Pages: 351
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Full Dark House, The Water Room, Seventy-Seven Clocks, Ten Second Staircase, White Corridor, The Victoria Vanishes, Bryant & May on the Loose, Bryant and May Off the Rails, London’s Glory: The Lost Cases of Bryant and May, The Memory of Blood, Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart, Bryant and May and the Burning Man

Tenth in the Bryant & May detective mystery series (a.k.a., Peculiar Crimes Unit) set in London and revolving around two too-old detectives who refuse to retire and who have their own way of doing things.

My Take

Per usual, Fowler begins with a memo for the bulletin board. I do enjoy the “staff roster” introducing us to the characters in the PCU by name and Land’s descriptions via the memo. His annoyance with Bryant, lol, is priceless.

“May I remind you that you are British officers of the law, and are not required to have any imagination.”

There is a coldness to the story, to all the stories in the series, and it’s the third-person omniscient point-of-view that keeps us at a distance. Not to worry though, as Fowler heats us up with how these people think and act. It’s these politicos in here who seem to be the theme in that you can’t trust politicians. Or their wives with all the “rules” they “must” follow and the manipulating they do, and they are the nastiest bitches. – I do enjoy Bryant snarking back at them…”nice gaff”, indeed, lol.

It’s also extremely annoying that Sabira won’t talk to Bryant or May. Sure, I can understand why she’s worried about that, but jesus…

You’ll need to keep your wits about you and your brain razor sharp, for Fowler is more convoluted than ever in the plans within plans within plans within…well, you get the picture. It’s a torturous path he weaves and quite the clever delivery of death.

One particular red herring that will frighten you is the children wondering “how are we going to kill her”. It borrows from those real-life mysterious deaths of Russian enemies. It won’t be the only red herring, as it seems to take forever for the PCU to figure out what’s going on.

“He had no interest in the lives he had placed at risk. All he could see was his career going up in flames.”

There was an interesting tidbit about Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” and the code he used on it.

You may want to have Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart on hand after you read that ending.

The Story

The latest strategy the Home Office is using to try to close down the PCU is to prevent the PCU from getting any cases. Well, after all, the entire police force hates them, especially that Arthur Bryant, swanning about, nicking the high-profile cases, the cheek of actually solving them…

Why does Bryant have to be right all the time?!?

What makes life all the more shocking is that their nemesis, Oskar Kasavian of all people, wants to hire Bryant and May, and the payoff would be amazing.

The Characters

Senior Detective Arthur Bryant is beyond unique while his partner, Senior Detective John May, is the dapper, diplomatic half. Alma Sorrowbridge is Bryant’s long-suffering landlady-cum-roommate who found them a new home on a council estate when their old home, Chalk Farm, was purchased out from under them.

“’I’ve shared an office with you for most of my adult life. I know how you think.’

’Well I wish you’d tell me,’ said Bryant. ‘I have absolutely no idea how my brain operates.’”

The Peculiar Crimes Unit, a.k.a., …
…PCU, is official and yet not. Created during World War II to deal with crimes that could threaten the British morale or were simply too odd for the regular police. It is currently under the purview of the Home Office, which is trying to shut it down…most spectacularly via Kasavian.

The cuckolded Raymond Land is the acting unit chief…he’s been “acting” for years now; Leanne is his cheating wife, talking about divorce. After some of Land’s comments, I think I understand why she wants out… Detective Sergeant Janice Longbright favors the film star looks of the ‘50s, although she seems to be lightening up; her mother had been with the Unit when it first started. Dan Banbury is the crime scene manager and info tech. Sergeant Jack Renfield is by the book and wondering how he got stuck here (The Victoria Vanishes, 6). Detective Constable (DC) Meera Mageshkar is more violently torn and trying to avoid dating DC Colin Bimsley who’s had a pash for her for ages and is Diminished Spatial Awareness-challenged. Crippen is the office cat. The pregnant one. DC Fraternity DuCaine has been seconded to the Unit.

Giles Kershaw had been with the Unit and is now the coroner at St. Pancras. Rosa Lysandrou is his dour housekeeper. Dr. Gillespie, a coroner, is about to retire, and should have weeks ago. He’s also an old friend of Bryant’s. Dr. Benjamin Fenchurch is another coroner who works at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.

The Home Office (HO)
Leslie Faraday is the Home Office liaison officer charged with keeping the PCU in line. His boss is “the cadaverous HO security supervisor” Oskar Kasavian. Kasavian’s wife is the unhappy eighteen-years-younger Sabira Borkowski, who comes from a far less privileged background. Edona Lescowitz is her best friend from Albania; she’s studying film design. Andy Shire is part of the HO security.

Other politicians in Oskar’s office and their poisonous wives include Charles and Emma Hereward; Edgar Lang and Lady Anastasia “Ana” Lang; and, Stuart Almon (he heads up the HO’s Workforce management Data System) and Cathy Almon. The three of men are also Oskar’s business partners in Pegasus Holdings, a private-public initiative, which provides intelligence to the scientific community. Lavinia Storton-Chester’s husband, Nigel, is the Security Division’s PR manager. Daniella Asquith. Edgar Digby is Almon’s lawyer.

The Rakes’ Club was the original Hellfire Club. The Damned Crew is a club within the club and had been linked with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Luka Terebenin is a Russian felon.

The Cedar Tree Centre is…
…a high-end clinic. Amelia Medway is a senior nurse. Sheryl Cooper is a keen watcher. Spike is a fellow patient, an American musician. Francina is majorly depressed.

Janet Ramsey is the unscrupulous editor of Hard News (Ten Second Staircase, 4). Jeff Waters is the photographer assigned to stalk Sabira. PhotoNet is the company he works for. Mandhatri and Jakari Sahonata have four children. John is the maître d’ at Claridge’s.

Lucy Mansfield accompanies her workaholic father, Andrew, to his office, Royal Oak Recruitment Services, on the weekends. Tom Penry usually plays with Lucy when his father brings him to the office; Jennifer is Tom’s mother.

Amy O’Connor, a part-time bar manager, was Dr. Peter Jukes’ fiancée. Jake Wallace worked in the church’s basement. Samuel Simmons is the director of the Cincinnati Bioanthropology Research Unit working in St. Bride’s. Theseus had been developing a bioweapon for Porton Down, a military science park financed by the Ministry of Defence (The Victoria Vanishes, 6).

Sally Talbot owns a bookstore and is prominently featuring Bryant’s Casebook of Bryant & May…and has the HO all a’dither. I swear, their cases sound like a crazed paranormal series. Anna Marquand had been Bryant’s biographer (The Memory of Blood, 9). Catherine Porter is a volunteer, and Terry is an attendant at the Soane museum at No. 13, Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Maggie Armitage is an old friend of Bryant’s and the leader of the Coven of St. James the Elder with whom he consults as necessary. Starbuck is one of her contacts in the spirit world. Dame Maud Hackshaw is the one to consult about madness. Georgia Standing is an archivist specializing in the study of Roman lunar symbolism; she took over from Harold Masters (The Victoria Vanishes, 6). Mr. Merry is a terrifying man to whom you do NOT want to be beholden. Maggie has a LOT of rules about being anywhere around the man. Angela Lacie is a former MI6 cryptography expert based at Bletchley Park.

The Cover and Title

The cover is quite cheerful with the radial gradation of its background starting at the center with a scale-textured deep cream and blowing out into a series of ever-darkening greens. The title and author’s name are in a script font in black with the former at the top of the cover and the latter at the bottom. The below-center graphic is an arched stained glass window with the PCU series name across its middle against a pale pink banner with its acronym, PCU, in the point of the arch in a shining gold while the initials B and M are right below it in a Gothic font. There are three black witches hats in the bottom of the window with one speared by a sword. A British flag flies out on the right, a horned skull with batwings is in the lower left corner, and a crown is on the right opposite the flag.

The title is The Invisible Code that politicians’ wives must follow.

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