The marvelously imaginative Christopher Fowler has brought back his dynamic duo Arthur Bryant and John May in their seventh tale. Both detectives are long past retirement age and their WWII unit founded for special cases, the Peculiar Crimes Unit (which is peculiar in the extreme), has been disbanded by bureaucrats who want everything done by the book. Suddenly though, the old unit needs to be reassembled--unofficially--when headless corpses (heads removed with surgical precision) are found in the King's Cross neighborhood where Europe's largest development is being constructed by a highly-efficient (ruthless?) corporation.
The area contains astonishing historical sites and landmarks--some thought lost forever--from the Paleolithic period all the way through English history. Suspicion falls upon a preservationist who roams the area at night dressed as a stag with antlers made of kitchen knives soldered together in a misguided effort to protest the development that would cover sacred spots with concrete. Soon the PCU are on the trail, and Bryant, who seemed to be fading away recently, is seen to be acting younger and livelier as he immerses himself in the case.
Fowler uses arcane historical and legendary stories to create a crime story founded in recent history, but solved by a knowledge of the ancient past. The author, a creative director of a film company, creates scenes in his novels that unfold like a movie. His characters, major and minor, are brilliantly evoked and seem to live on--even off--the page. Lots of humor, a bit of tragedy, and incredible inventiveness characterize all the Bryant and May novels, which are among the best crime stories being written today.