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Bryant & May Kill Christmas

Christmas is, by definition, a traditional sort of a time. For all that you'll find them under almost every tree, we don't really need new fangled technologies, and whizz-bang gimics. That's true for almost every aspect of the holiday, but no more so than when it comes to our festive reads - we want something new, of course, but we also want to be reassured, and nothing is more reassuring at Christmas than a dose of Bryant and May, complete with day-old London slush, dripping from the pen of the irrepresible Christopher Fowler.

For those who haven't met this classic crime fighting duo, shame on you! Stalwarts of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit, charged with handling cases that might cause public disquiet, Arthur Bryant and John May should soon have their very own blue plaques in the city. Octogenarians who have managed to cling to a level of police involvement that would put the team at New Tricks to shame, May tries to drag his partner, squirming and muttering (kicking and screaming will throw your hip out, after all) into at least the late twentieth century. Bryant, by comparison, is happier with musty old books, a couple of ounces of old navy shag, and a long woolen scarf to keep the London smog at bay. As unlikely as it sounds, together they make a truly formidable team. They will also, quite literally, make you laugh your socks off on at least one occasion for every book you encounter them in.

Readers have two Christmas options this year. Fowler has released a single, festive short story - 'Bryant & May and the Secret Santa' - for Kindle, available from Amazon as something of a teaser, or, you can pick up his entire collection of stories, 'Bryant & May - London's Glory', which opens with that same tale. The collection goes on to recount a variety of stories from the PCU files, some dating back to the 1950s, others so up to date that no one can fathom how Arthur manages to tune into vintage radio shows using just his outdated mobile phone. There are also short summaries of the various novels in the series, a biographical look at the main characters and their supporting cast, alongside oodles of new information to keep old fans more than happy.

Avoiding spoilers, favourite quotes from 'Londond's Glory' include (but are by no means limited to): "Arthur realised how bad the fog had become when he tried to post a letter in a Chelsea Pensioner"; "Oh yes, we were just sitting around knitting and doing jigsaws, waiting for your call - you'd better tell us what happened before I'm tempted to bite you!"; and, Arthur's timeless summary of Yuletide festivities - "I suppose Christmas serves its purpose, if only in reviving memories of happy times ... but if that Tiny Tim comes anywhere near me with his collection bucket I'll break his other leg!" I'm with Arthur on that one, all the way!

As good an introduction to this classic series as it is a continuation of it for those who have been long-term fans, 'Bryant & May - London's Glory' will puzzle, delight, and amuse. What more could you ask for at Christmas, other than a stick to hit passers by with, and some heavy duty adhesive to stop the cake fragments from getting under your denture plate?

Christopher Fowler's 'Bryant & May - London's Glory' is available now in hardback from Random House.

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