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
"Where it all begins?"
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.
"Where it all began"
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.
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