Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Water Room by Christopher Fowler

Transworld Book GroupThis is the third book I've been sent in the Transworld Book Challenge, and it is the second in the Bryant and May series. I have recently read the first, 'A Full Dark House' though I haven' reviewed it yet. I really enjoyed it and so was looking forward to reading this one.

Arthur Bryant and John May are senior detectives with the Peculiar Crimes Squad, which is a very small department within London's Metropolitan Police. The peculiar crime they are investigating in this story is the death of an elderly woman, Ruth Singh. Ruth has been found in her own home, sitting in a chair, dressed as if she's about to go out - yet it appears she has drowned. Not only that, but the water in her throat is river water.

Ruth Singh lived at 5 Balaklava Street in London, an area which had previously been very poor, but is in the process of becoming gentrified. People like Ruth, who have lived there for decades, live alongside the upwardly mobile who are hoping to make a quick buck as house prices rise. The history of the area proves important in the investigation. Christopher Fowler is very good at describing London and the fascinating palimpsest that makes it what it is. He doesn't describe a sanitised, tourist brochure version of the city, but a messy, vital, dirty, secret-riven place. Yet he still manages to make it magical and attractive.

Water is all around in the story. It is constantly raining and Balaklava Street is particularly prone to flooding. It is built over the River Fleet, one of the lost tributaries of the Thames. Kallie Owen, the young woman who buys Ruth Singh's house is haunted by the sound of rushing water in the basement and mysterious damp patches which bloom on the walls and then suddenly disappear. There is a sub-plot concerning Gareth Greenwood, an academic whose specialist subject is the lost rivers of London.

Bryant and May are wonderful characters. Both are elderly, well past retirement age. Bryant feels his age more than May, but is still the reckless one, making connections no-one else can see. May is more circumspect, often reining his partner in when he goes off on one of his wilder flights of fancy. Their friendship is close and genuine, built up over sixty years of working together. I loved this book and look forward to reading more in the series.


  1. I loved both this book and Full Dark House too, and am looking forward to working my way through the rest of the series. I'm learning a lot about London from these books - I thought all the facts about the underground rivers were fascinating!

  2. Helen, yes the underground rivers were fascinating. Have you read The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch? A very different book but it also featured the rivers. I wrote about it here,

  3. I like the book as well, will certainly going to read more of these.

    I always learn something reading these books.

  4. Jo - yes, they are fascinating, I can't wait to read the rest of the series.