Still somewhat otherwise engaged, what with Marjorie’s continuing limited mobility, and also with an ailing cat. But we did get away for a couple of days this week, and while in Masterton (Hedleys, good bookshop) I picked up a book of essays on detective fiction by P D James. My Independent puzzle this week had a hidden set of references to the Bryant and May novels by Christopher Fowler and the coincidence led me to this update’s puzzle, from 2013. (The 2013 puzzle has been blogged here, while last Friday’s already has a blog here.) A great boon that I had a pdf already prepared for the 2013 puzzle, since the social media arranged around it (see the 2013fifteensquared blog) led me to prepare one.
There’s clearly a link between detective fiction and crosswords. Sayers has Wimsey falling into an impluvium (as you do) and noting that its tiles form a crossword pattern. Dexter’s Morse is even more egregiously cruciverbal, of course, but even where crosswords aren’t explicitly mentioned, the lure of the puzzle element remains. Some go further and suggest that, deep down, the common element is a desire to bring order – in the form of a solution – to what could be seen as a messy business. Not only order, but order delivered in an orderly way, based on reasoned analysis of observed clues. All very tidy.
Actually, ‘tidy’ is not the word for Fowler’s Arthur Bryant who is at the heart of the books. One should note, for those unfamiliar with them, that Bryant and May are octogenarian detectives in the Peculiar Crimes Unit, dealing with crimes whose inexplicability might cause public concern. This has allowed for a sequence of books looking at different forms of the Golden Age favourites such as the locked-room mystery, or the unbreakable alibi, and so on. Bryant is a keen student of the occult and consults witches and experts in the arcane to reach his solutions, although the solutions are always perfectly rational. Fowler’s books also serve as guides to the history of London with lots of references to obscure items of capital lore. His own blog extends this much further, as well as taking in lots of other things.
I did Friday’s puzzle after completing The Burning Man which Fowler had said was to be the last of the sequence. As I noted on fifteensquared he has said this before; also there is a book of short stories due out later this year. And I now see that Bryant and May: Strange Tide (the biggest novel yet, apparently) is set for March 2016, so there may be more Ninas yet.
The short stories come out the same day as the paperback of The Burning Man – November 5. That day also sees the publication of the next novel in a series featuring another celebrated detective – but that would bring us back to the 2013 puzzle, so nuff said.
I haven’t been mentioning my forthcoming puzzles, which means you missed a Pedro in The Times last Wednesday. But there’s a little run next week: a Toughie in The Telegraph on Wednesday, a grown-up Times puzzle on Thursday, followed by the usual Independent and IoS pair over the weekend.