Review: The Lonely Hour (Bryant & May: Peculiar Crimes Unit #16) by Christopher Fowler

When I picked up this series a few years ago, one of the things that stood out to me was how much it focused on the mystery rather than the actual characters.

I mean the characters are well drawn and developed on their own, but the idea is to really look at the mysteries of the Peculiar Crimes Unit and I love that the author has kept that the focus throughout this series.

I read the first two or three books in this series and then was on to something else and now here I have picked up this one and the fifteenth book before this one and found that the quality of writing in these later books is just as good and the quality is consistent!


The brilliant Arthur Bryant and John May take the late, late shift in a cat-and-mouse hunt with a killer who preys on his victims at the same time every night–the lonely hour of 4 A.M.

When a man is found hanging upside down inside a willow tree on Hampstead Heath, surrounded by a baffling assortment of occult objects, the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. Was this a botched satanic ritual pulled off by bored teenagers, a gang initiation, or the work of a mastermind with grander intentions? Bryant and May set off in search of answers and are soon reminded that London is a city steeped in blood and magic.

When another body is pulled from the river at dawn, it becomes clear that a killer lurks in the night. To catch him, the PCU switches to graveyard shifts, but the team still comes up short. As they explore a night city where the normal rules do not apply, they’re drawn deeper into a case that involves murder, arson, kidnapping, blackmail, loneliness, and bats.

May takes a technological approach, while Bryant goes in search of his usual academics and misfits for help, for this investigation reveals impossibilities at every turn. How do you stop a killer who appears not to exist? Luckily, impossibilities are what the Peculiar Crimes Unit does best. (summary from Goodreads


While the focus of still the crime/mystery in this one, we know almost right away who the killer is but what we don’t know is the why and that’s what this book looks at—-the why. It’s a little different than some of the other mysteries in the book but it was still fun and a nice way to change things up for long time fans of this series.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again, this series is quirky. It has deadpan humor and some funny moments in each book and this was no different. I love the humor of the characters and really enjoy some of the comedic moments in each book.

This is definitely a book you could pick up randomly and know that you can dive right in without having to go back and read all the other books. But that said, there are reoccurring characters and back stories to each main protagonist. I think the author does a good job orientating new readers when he can but there are times when you just have to read the other books in the series to fully appreciate all the nuances. But ultimately I think this could be read as a stand alone.

For me this book was pretty good. I mean I liked some of the other books in the series better, but this was a good book and I enjoyed figuring out the why of the crime but would have been nice to not have the killer identified so soon (literally within the first 10 pages we knew). This book has all the hallmarks of a well loved successful series. Atmosphere, cheek, some interesting twists and two love-able little old men detectives! If you love crime fiction this is a series you want to have on your radar! I do wish they would bring back the old cover art though. I loved those book covers so much, I am not a huge fan of this new design.

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, 448 pages
Published December 3rd 2019 by Bantam
ISBN 0525485821 (ISBN13: 9780525485827)
Free review copy provided by, Bantam Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: mystery, crime fiction, detective novel


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