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Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
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Full Dark House

by Christopher Fowler

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Atmospheric thriller/mystery set mostly in London during the Blitz. Oddball detective Arthur Bryant and his stolid partner John May try to solve a series of murders at the Palace theater as an operetta prepares for opening night. ( )
  barlow304 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Christopher Fowler can write an interesting, intelligent, informative book.
FULL DARK HOUSE is set in London in both the present and during the blitz in November1940. It begins with the destruction of a building housing the Peculiar Crimes Unit, part of the North London Police Department. Only one person, Detective Arthur Bryant, was known to have been in the building. What remains were found were buried. Among the attendees was his longtime partner, Detective John May and Detective Sergeant Janice Longbright. John, especially, was upset that the police department wasn’t doing enough to find the person or persons who set off the bomb. The police, on the other hand, were more concerned with curbing the gang violence in the neighborhood.
John thought back to when he first met Arthur, when they were both in their early twenties. Their first case was the unusual death of a dancer in a racy version of Orpheus in the Underworld. Within days, others associated with the show were killed or disappeared. One thing the deaths had in common was they happened during bomb attacks when the city was in blackout.
I figured out part of the ending of the current part of the story. I did not do so with the 1940 section. I think it was too contrived and parts of it seemed totally impossible.
One of the best parts of FULL DARK HOUSE are the descriptions of what life was like during the Blitz: The damage to the city and its residents and how the survivors coped. A second highpoint are the descriptions of both the old theater, once home to D’Oyly Carte Gilbert and Sullivan productions. It provides a lot of wit: “Helene...had a smile so false she could have stood for Parliament.” “The young detective possessed that peculiar ability more common to elderly men, which produces negative energy around electrical equipment, turning even the most basic appliances into weapons of destruction.”
It predicts the economic future: “The days of the British owning everything on their terms is coming to an end. Future fortunes will be made with the involvement of international cartels such as ours.”
The book was a fast read. It could easily have been somewhat shorter without losing any of the story or effect.
I really don’t like books with short chapters. I think it insults the intelligence of the readers as well as wastes a lot of paper. I automatically lower my rating for such books. ( )
  Judiex | Jun 4, 2014 |
Just discovered this author-love this series! ( )
  Chatty_Cathie | May 18, 2014 |
Note: The following review is the one I posted on my historical mysteries blog, The Body on the Floor. You can see it here: http://bodyonthefloor.blogspot.com/2014/05/full-dark-house-by-christopher-fowler...

Christopher Fowler is the literary equivalent of a genius mad scientist.

That's the thought that haunted me while reading Full Dark House, the first installment in Fowler's Peculiar Crimes Unit series.

Never has the first installment of a historical mystery series bowled me over so completely and so chaotically. Reading this book was a little like falling in love by being hit over the head and then hugged.

Where, or perhaps, how to begin...?

First, the writing: the narrative flips back and forth between London during World War II, when the two protagonists, Arthur Bryant and John May, are in their early twenties and modern-day London, when the two men are comfortably settling in to their old age and have a seven decades of partnership and friendship behind them. This helps the story move along at a good clip and keeps things interesting.

Bryant and May have been the constant in each other's lives, through marriages, divorce, children, grandchildren, the introduction of technology in their work and a myriad of small and large markers of the passing of time. Not since Holmes and Watson has a deep, sincere and affectionate friendship between two men been better portrayed.

Second, as the existence of my blog indicates, I read a lot of historical mysteries set in London during and after World Wars I and II. So I was surprised at how much I learned from this book about how the war impacted the daily lives of people living in London. There are countless mundane, but fascinating, details woven in the parts of the story that take place during the Blitz that I never encountered in any other World War II novel or mystery, such as sleeping in the subway tunnels with strangers.

Third, the dual mysteries are both well plotted, though I did figure the solution out long before the end of the book. That did not, however, keep me from wanting to continue reading.

Arthur Bryant is eccentric and open-minded to the occult, paranormal activity and the afterlife which make him a very refreshing detective. He could grow tedious in his scatterbrained-ness (he is undoubtedly a sponge for information, but doesn't organize it in his mind), and that's where John May helps to balance him out.

The backdrop of the London theater scene in the midst of the blitz was fascinating and Fowler's experience as a horror writer shines through with each body that turns up.

Finally, how many series begin with the death of a main protagonist? ( )
  Shutzie27 | May 4, 2014 |
A deightfully weird mystery story with a pair of utterly wonderful detectives. I shall be reading the rest of this series. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Mar 23, 2014 |
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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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