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Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
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Full Dark House (2003)

by Christopher Fowler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bryant and May (1)

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930499,380 (3.67)139
  1. 00
    The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes (SomeGuyInVirginia)
    SomeGuyInVirginia: Similar in tone. Both are darkly comic detection novels with supernatural overtones and set in London. The entire Peculiar Crimes series qualifies as a recommendation.
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Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
Terrific book. The story is excellent, with plenty of twists and surprises to keep you guessing. The characters are all well developed and feel very real, especially Brant and May.

( )
  grandpahobo | Mar 22, 2015 |
This has got to be the most eclectic and strange pairing of detectives that you'll ever find in crime fiction. Bryant and May are introduced to us here in the first book of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. This strange crime unit is located in London. The time is actually 2005 (when the book was released), but it flips back to crimes in 1940 at the beginning of WWII and right during the Blitz. Bryant and May, when we meet them are old curmudgeonly detectives that have worked together in the Peculiar Crimes Units for six decades. They are each brilliant in their own way, and each compliments the other in their detective style. May is the practical one and Bryant is the nerdy, unorthodox and the one who firmly believes in the occult and in magic. This book covers these two old detectives as they solve their first case together (during the war) and their last case in the present day. A very strange murder occurs in an old London theatre called The Palace. Somehow the two crime sprees that occur in the book are connected, even though there is a 60 year break between them. I enjoyed the premise and I liked the characters, but I found the book very confusing to read at times. And there was far too much theatre-lore in it to my taste. It was hard to get caught up in the mystery and thrill because of the constant switching back and forth. This could be an interesting premise for a detective series, and I'm presuming that the author's writing skills will improve with each additional book, but I'm not sure that I'll be reading any more in this series. ( )
  Romonko | Mar 18, 2015 |
Excellent and imaginative. Bryant and May's friendship is most admirable and Mr. Fowler is expert at handling the transition of the chapters from past to present. A most enjoyable mystery amd written with a fine sense of humour. I'm looking forward to reading more of Bryant and May. ( )
  ebeach | Mar 13, 2015 |
Starting this series after reading three of Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant stories, they're a glaringly obvious comparison: same city, same occupation, same surname shared by main characters - though slightly different occult to police from a shoestring, maverick unit of the Met. Basically, Fowler is a bit more serious - the same recognisably British comic tone hovers under the surface, but never becomes cheeky or flippant, befitting protagonists about sixty years Grant's senior. And as a friend advised, not as much magic: this is something closer to a straight historical procedural. It's also considerably more 'literary' in its writing than the Scandinavian series I've been reading recently.

I found Full Dark House deeply atmospheric at the start. Whilst they're young enough to be my oldest grandfather's sons, B&M seem part of, imbued with, ancient strata of London history. Nothing especially mystical is evoked in references, it's something more mysterious in the tone of the writing as it's quite clear that their first case started here, 1940, in a theatre. An evocative world of its own that calls up the spirits of The Red Shoes, An Awfully Big Adventure, Tony Richardson's The Entertainer and every other 50s and 60s film that was unfashionably nostalgic for the lost world of variety. (Phantom of the Opera is the most obvious reference, but due to a childhood dislike of Michael Crawford, I never wanted anything to do with that story in any medium.) Flipping between then and now in short chapters gives a spine tingling, stomach-churning sense of a favourite subject, the passing of time and all of its...
What a long way it is from those to a present where B&M's colleagues and successors have the more immediate priority of confiscating Chinese-made assault rifles from the hands of drug addled teenage yardie wannabes.
And Fowler understands how even a place as large as London can become fused in one's mind with a personality:
"'I have to get out of London.'
Finch understood. Arthur Bryant was virtually a symbol of the city. There were memories of the man and his cases almost everywhere you looked."

Somehow, gradually, the story doesn't quite live up to the mystique of the setup. Perhaps it's a bit too long and detailed. Perhaps the structure of short chapters - ideal for public transport reading - is disjointed used with a story that's only engrossing when you spend at least half an hour at a time on it. Perhaps it was the disorientating mixture of immersive historical attitude and ill-suited modernity in the Forties' characters. Perhaps it's the 'show don't tell' chestnut as far as character traits are concerned.

It plodded at times, people weren't as vivid as they could be. There's unnecessary detail at times; nonetheless I was glad this included a term I've needed for years but didn't know existed: "the maieutic process ... Socratic midwifery...You know, the easing out of ideas. You help things out of my head, things that were already there but unformed." Also learnt that 'Murder in the Red Barn', which I'd always taken to be an entirely original Tom Waits song, must have been inspired by a 1930s British film, in its turn based on a real crime a century earlier.

Full Dark House was 100-150 pages too long and sometimes silly in not a very good way. But it could be a whole lot worse. The regular cast-to-be are likeable, despite being drawn a bit clumsily in this first installment. ( )
  antonomasia | Oct 2, 2014 |
I liked this and look forward to reading more in this series. This filled my mystery, historical fiction fix and was witty as well. I do admit that as I already knew of the series, I felt fairly sure that Bryant would be revealed not to be dead by this book's end. This did fizzle the suspense a bit but the way the story is told in two threads, one in 1940 when Bryant and May first meet and work their first case (which was skeevy & creepy) and the second in the present with May trying to find out who's done in Bryant, was very well done. I loved all the parts in the past showing London life during the Blitz. It was rendered vividly and probably edged out the modern bit in enjoyment for me just a bit. The relationship between Bryant and May is fantastic and I like these two from young to old, they've been a perfect team. I'd definitely read more in this series and I'll try to make sure I go in order. ( )
  anissaannalise | Aug 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christopher Fowlerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chlewińska, IwonaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duha, OndřejTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merino, IsabelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Bill - scientist, firewatcher, father (1923-2003)
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It really was a hell of a blast.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553385534, Paperback)

A bomb rips through present-day London, tragically ending the crime-fighting partnership of Arthur Bryant and John May begun more than a half-century ago during another infamous bombing: the Blitz of World War II. Desperately searching for clues to the saboteur’s identity, May finds the notes his old friend kept of their very first case and a past that may have returned…with murderous vengeance. It was an investigation that began with the grisly murder of a pretty young dancer. In a city shaken by war, a faceless killer stalked London’s theater row, creating his own sinister drama. And it would take Bryant’s unorthodox techniques and May’s dogged police work to catch a fiend whose ability to escape detection seemed almost supernatural—a murderer who decades later may have returned to kill one of them…and won’t stop until he kills the other.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:01 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

When a bomb claims the life of John May's detective partner of more than half a century, May becomes convinced that the key to the killer's identity lies in his first case together with his partner.

» see all 5 descriptions

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