The Peculiar Crimes Unit - of which the stars are Arthur Bryant and John May - is under threat from officialdom (damn right, I'd close it down without a second thought), but is still dealing with the odd, the bizarre, and the neglected. The Victoria Vanishes is my first exposure to these endearing but very odd creations of Christopher Fowler, and I enjoyed it - though I felt the joke might pall if I was to read many of these books in quick succession.
A number of women are murdered, in pubs, and there seems to be a connection between some of them - they know each other, there is a photograph in a bar of three of them. But why should they be murdered? And why did Arthur Bryant see one of them being killed - though he did not realise that at the time - outside a pub which had been demolished decades earlier?
The search takes them through some odd byways of knowledge, not least the pubs of London, with a cheerful and robust wit, a lot of political incorrectness, and some some very odd modus operandi. They crack the case with the help of a bit of luck, a lot of brass neck, and a certain amount of conventional policing - of both the forensic and more physical kind. I like the idea, and found much of the book intriguing and rather funny, and the characters are fully and vividly drawn. I thought the explanation of the crimes was slightly too complex to follow easily - and a little unlikely, but hey, we're in mild fantasy land here already, and I'll read another one when I get the chance.
And no, I'm not going to tell you why he sees a pub which isn't there: it's not because he's drunk, though he is! It's called The Victoria Cross, not The Queen Victoria, and that's all part of the story.