In Full Dark House, Christopher Fowler tells the story of both the first and last case of an unlikely pair of crime fighters - and how along the way they changed the face of detection.
A present-day bombing rips through London and claims the life of 80-year-old detective Arthur Bryant. For his partner John May, it means the end of a partnership that lasted over half a century and an eerie echo back to the Blitz of World War II when they first met. Desperately searching for clues to the killer's identity, May finds his old friend's notes of their very first case and becomes convinced that the past has returned ... with a killing vengeance.
It begins when a dancer in a risqué new production of Orpheus in Hell is found without her feet. Suddenly, the young detectives are plunged in a bizarre gothic mystery that will push them to their limits - and beyond. For in a city shaken by war, a faceless killer is stalking London's theaters, creating his own kind of sinister drama. And it will take Arthur Bryant's unorthodox techniques and John May's dogged police work to catch a criminal whose ability to escape detection seems almost supernatural - a murderer who even decades later seems to have claimed the life of one of them ... and is ready to claim the other.
Filled with startling twists, unforgettable characters, and a mystery that will keep you guessing, Full Dark House is a witty, heartbreaking, and all-too-human thriller about the hunt for an inhuman killer.
©2003 Christopher Fowler (P)2003 W.F.Howes Ltd
How many crime novels start with a death? Almost all of them and this one is no exception except that it isn't what you'd expect..... and I'll say no more, because I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise!
This is the first book that Christopher Fowler wrote featuring his elderly detective duo, Bryant and May, in their own right. The story centres around a series of murders that happened during the Blitz at the Empire Theatre, and a single murder in the late 90's/early 2000's. The plots skip along at a fair rate, are complex, and will keep you guessing to the end in both cases. The book is chock full of the usual Fowler London trivia and of course Arthur is fabulously rude to almost everyone in the process. There are also a couple hilariously foul practical jokes played on the pathologist, Oswald Finch.
The narration is up to Tim Goodman's usual high standard although it is sometimes apparent that this was the first novel he read in the series as some of the character voices are still bedding in. Arthur is pretty consistent throughout but sometimes the young John May sounds a lot like Raymond Land does in later books but you soon get used to it.
So the big question, bearing in mind that there are 9 in the series with a tenth one due in August 2012; if you are new to B & M and fancy dipping your toe in these wonderful renditions of the capital and its quirks, should you start with this one (as logic would suggest)?
My advice would be no, start with the Water Room (book 2) which is a more conventional crime novel and come back to this one after you've read the first couple as it clears up a few points in the back story of the pair. The reason for waiting is that the jumping back and forth in time between the two main plots of the Full Dark House can get a bit confusing first time around. In fact, the author himself has also suggested not reading this one first; rather a new reader should start with one of the later, more conventional novels.
Having come across Bryant and May in one of Christopher Fowler's earlier horror novels I was interested to catch up on them. The novel mainly takes place in the war with some links to the modern day. I love the main characters and the narrator has created a brilliant voice for each. I love the way the story unfolds, allowing the detectives to ponder various explanations to the events unfolding. The heavy feeling of the supernatural veiling the real events at first leads me to think that it is again a horror novel, but settles into a more pleasing crime novel with a peculiar aspect, which I suppose is the whole point of their unit.
I am now hooked on the series and will be downloading more.
I found this book quite by chance looking through the crime section on audible and have not read any of Christopher Fowler books before. Bryant & May are very police officers whose story is placed in two time frames and where the story starts with a bang quite literally. A very different approach is taken by Fowler then the run of the mill crime novel ands it is read by Tim Goodman who is ideal for this series given great feeling to each of the many characters. Highly Recommended.
"2 English Detective mysteries for the price of 1!!"
Yes, it is a good story well told with many details; history, character & plot development, & contemporary politics. With all that said, even to write this review I wanted to re-listen to the book to be sure of what wrote.
Not on the edge of my seat however; it is a detective mystery after all not a thriller. The story did motivate me to extend my listening.
The narration was a little distracting for me. Tim goodman did a good job with all the voices except for the young Arthur Bryant, who sounded the same as the young & aged Bryant. Thus, I downgraded the performance.
This is still a superb detective mystery. A real PG, no graphic sex, violence, & language. Albeit, an adult "who done it" in twists & turns. I will be adding more Bryant & May mysteries to my library.
"Gosh This Was Boring… And that was the good part"
Okay, a good mystery needs red herrings. But… they shouldn't decompose into a stink. In Full Dark House, a great big hunk of the plot is made of herring that's left out of the fridge too long. Then there's the deus ex machine ending and… two lead characters that dawdle and droop through twin historic lines… and the result? Well maybe BBC might make a 90 minute TV drama out of this just to use as a deal sweetener with America's PBS so they'll pay top dollar for some soap opera in bodice-busting, costume, period-piece, drag that insecure American upper middle class viewers seem to become besotted over…. And.. and…
Oh, thanks, I needed that. Simply put, pass on "Full Dark House". K?
"More Than Just a Mystery"
I stumbled upon this book while searching Audible for another mystery series. Right off the bat, this met several of my criteria:
a) significant number of books in the series and on Audible (8);
b) takes place somewhere interesting that I don't know much about (London)
c) has the added bonus of a fun accent (British)
And then, once I read the book, I could add well-developed, interesting characters to the list, as well as two cases for the price of one. The case in the present has to do with Arthur Bryant, the eccentric half of Bryant & May (John May is the straight arrow), who is trapped in a building when it inexplicably explodes; and the case taking place in WWII London delves into theater life, the prevailing culture, and Greek mythology to solve a host of murders. This book does a nice job of setting the scene of the WWII times without getting overly emotional about it: Yes, it was unfathomably awful; but Londoners were doing their best to keep calm and carry on. The story follows the detectives as they stumble their way through the 1940's case (their first one) and in turn updates the reader on progress on the modern-day case, all the while being easy to follow.
The narrator does a very good job with the several voices and accents.
Note: I use the Goodreads rating system (three stars = liked it, four stars = really liked it).
"I envy you, reader who hasn't met Bryant & May yet"
I've just finished the latest (10th) book in the series, and I am a fan!!!
I recommend this series to anyone who loves great, quirky British crime novels, and who would enjoy getting to know two octogenarian detectives solving crimes in the London Peculiar Crimes Unit. A special unit under the Home Office, they are themselves a Peculiar bunch, Bryant and May and their team.
Bryant (described as looking like a great tortoise with a long scarf around its neck while fishing lint-covered "boiled sweets" from his pockets now and then and popping them into his ill-fitting dentures) befriends the London occult subculture and scholarly outsiders, looking to London history and intuition. There is lots of really cool and unusual London history in this series! His dapper friend and partner May does the detective scutwork, collecting evidence and using forensics and police resources. Together they solve more crimes than any other unit--while dealing with bureaucratic red tape and political harassment with the London Metro Police hierarchy constantly threatening to shut down the unit.
Bryant & May, eccentric, annoying and endearing in turn, have intrigued me into advancing through the series, eagerly awaiting the next book with their next adventures. All the while I'm holding my breath hoping these fragile old guys won't croak before we get to read a bunch more of their stories!!
I enjoyed the setting of wartime London for a murder mystery, and the descriptions of the Palace Theater.
I was somewhat put off by the performer mispronouncing fairly common words like "cadaver" and "grimace" repeatedly ( both, according to the reader, with a long A sound), as well as the voice he chose to use as Young Bryant sounding more like a man far older than his early 20's, as he is supposed to be.
A few minor quirks with the narration and generally well read by Tim Goodman
The story does move between past and present and a couple of times where there was no break it became a 'huh?' moment. Nothing that really mattered too much as the gist quickly became obvious.
A light enjoyable story. Well yes there are murders or odd accidents. Some good quips from Arthur and enjoyable repartee. It was fun to revist "Orpheus in the Underworld" by Offenbach, which was being rehearsed while peculiar sudden deaths occurred. I actually downloaded a medley from the Operetta to remind me of some of the cheeky tunes..Christopher Fowler's writing was evocative as well as giving the atmosphere of London's streets noirish shadows and fog.
The solution to the deaths/murders was a little contrived and "no" it did not really spoil the listen overall.
I liked the characters and the setting very much. If you love classic British detective novels, this will probably make you feel nice and cozy. Also the theater atmosphere reminded me of Ngaio Marsh. I think I will probably listen to more in this series. The plot is a little improbable, but fun. This isn't realism, but who needs that all the time, anyways?
"Lovable old detectives run out of gas"
While I've enjoyed previous Bryant & May adventures - the plot intricacies, the robust character development - this time, tedium ensued. The past rises up to bite the present in the butt. That's no stretch, but this particular past lacks sufficient teeth for engagement. The entire enterprise felt forced and overly plotted. The writing was, as usual, just fine, and the narrator did his excellent best with dubious material.
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