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Full Dark House Hardcover – Nov 2004

4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Imprint unknown (November 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843955229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843955221
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.2 x 3.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 739 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

It's no surprise to find plenty of gothic touches in British author Fowler's debut mystery, the first in a series, given the renown of his horror fiction (Rune, etc.). When 80-year-old police detective Arthur Bryant gets blown up in an explosion at the North London Peculiar Crimes Unit headquarters, his longtime partner, John May, investigates his death. After some long, lecturing dialogue and an early chapter told from the viewpoint of a character who turns out to be of no consequence, the author reaches the core of his story—a flashback to the duo's first case during the London Blitz. In late 1940, the Palace Theatre is staging a production of Orpheus in the Underworld when the body of a dancer is found, sans feet. From this point forward, the intrigues of the theater murders, which decimate the cast, create considerable drama. The potency of Greek myth, conjured up by the opera being staged, is skillfully played out in the detectives' theories about the killer. The dynamic between May and Bryant makes for compelling reading, while the hubris of a police underling, Sidney Biddle, provides additional tension. Both past and present plots reach satisfying resolutions. Now that Fowler has set the stage, no doubt his second Bryant and May mystery will get off to a better start.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This mystery features the impending retirement of a Scotland Yard detective and the death of another. When Arthur Bryant is apparently blown up, his erstwhile partner, John May, begins reflecting on their first case together more than 60 years earlier. May, a raw recruit of 19, and Bryant, a 23-year-old detective, became the core of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, created to handle cases that were too important to ignore, yet that somehow seemed disproportionately insignificant in the face of the hundreds of civilians killed each night during the Blitz. Both men had been hurried through training and were suddenly faced with the strange case of the Palace Phantom, a killer victimizing the cast in an elaborate production of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld. May was both intrigued by and dismayed at Bryant's methods and seeming flights of fancy. He used everything from crime-scene forensics to spiritualists to help him build his case. Fowler skillfully shifts the action between 1940 and the 21st century, building suspense and growing awareness as each case comes to its respective climax. Not surprisingly, they are connected. The details of wartime London and the destruction and deprivation of daily life are vividly conveyed. Today's teens will identify with the young lives so drastically affected by the war while following the clues, and red herrings, to a satisfactory conclusion.–Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

By Dave and Joe TOP 500 REVIEWER on Oct. 12 2009
Format: Paperback
Full Dark House is one of those unusual books of historical fiction (although a significant amount of the story takes place in present day) that manages historical accuracy with a hysterical sense of humour. The characters are wonderfully drawn, the times (present and past) wryly described. I enjoyed the play between past and present and I enjoyed the presentation of two men across a lifetime. This is an ambitious novel though it is carried off in a way that makes it seem easily written. I've bought all the books in the series and am going through them one at a time. A lovely discovery. Well worth your time.
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Format: Hardcover
Christopher Fowler has had a long and distinguished literary career. FULL DARK HOUSE is the tenth of his published novels. He has also written and published over 100 works of shorter fiction, most of which appear in nine different collections, as well as MENZ INSANA, a fine graphic novel. Fowler's work is quite diverse; while it may stray into the mystery, suspense or even dark fantasy genres, he is impossible to pigeonhole.
FULL DARK HOUSE is an excellent example of this. There are elements of mystery (ala Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie), police procedurals, horror, history and suspense aplenty here. There is also Fowler's trademark quirkiness. One never knows what to expect. So it is that while FULL DARK HOUSE is the first of a projected series of mysteries featuring Arthur Bryant and John May, it deals with their first, and last, case.
We learn over the course of FULL DARK HOUSE that Bryant and May have a long history together. They met up as the result of the establishment of the London Peculiar Crimes Unit in 1940, at the height of the German bombing of London. The founding of PCU occurred partly from necessity and partly for publicity. Given the frequency of the bombing to which the London populace was subjected, the actions of some of its citizenry became more and more bizarre, resulting in what was referred to with British understatement as "peculiar crimes." Bryant and May, assigned to the unit, became friends; their personal and professional relationship has lasted over 60 years, with Bryant's unorthodox methodology and May's more traditional police work complementing each other nicely.
Fowler begins FULL DARK HOUSE in modern London with ... well, a bang, literally, when the headquarters of the London Peculiar Crimes Unit explodes with Arthur Bryant in it.
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Format: Hardcover
Detective Sergeant Janice Longbright learns from long time Detective John May that an explosion killed his peer Detective Arthur Bryant. John and Arthur first met when the Peculiar Crimes Unit was established in 1940 and they investigated a weird murder of a dancer at the Palace Theatre. That case with its odd occult like feel forms the start of a long time friendship and partnership.
Now both octogenarians, it appears that Arthur was writing his memoirs when a six decades old bomb from the World War II Blitz exploded and killed him. John, who had talked to his buddy just prior to his death, finds a design of the Palace amongst the ruins of Bryant's residence. Was his partner killed because someone wants the sixty plus years old crime to remain cold or was this just an accident caused by the victim's own absent minded brilliant lifestyle? John believes murder has occurred and he plans to prove it.
FULL DARK HOUSE is a terrific police procedural that uses an occult like homicide from 1940 as the motive for a modern day killing. The story line is driven by the octogenarian John and to a degree supplemented by his long time detective partner Arthur though the latter is dead and appears more as either flashback thoughts or the victim. The sleuthing is fabulous and the support cast realistically add depth to the hero, but when all is said and done this novel belongs to dedicated John, who somewhat obsessed in solving his pal's death hopefully is around for a decade or two solving more London murders.
Harriet Klausner
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By Bernie Koenig TOP 500 REVIEWER on Sept. 9 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I have little to add to the other reviews here except to say I did not find the book as good as they did.

The mystery itself was interesting and Bryant's off beat reasoning was fun at first but became tedious as the book went on.

I sometimes got confused when the book went back and forth between the present and the past. While the apparent blowing up of Bryant doers play a role in the story, I think the book would have been much better without any reference to the present. It is as if author Fowler had two books in mind and put them together.

But the one thing that this book made me want to do was to see a performance of Offenbach's Orpheus.
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