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Full Dark House Hardcover – Nov 2004

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Hardcover, Nov 2004
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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
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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 the Paperback edition.

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 the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 154 reviews
51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Ambitious and Challenging Beginning to this Series June 6 2004
By Bookreporter - Published on
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. May is aware that his partner, in the days preceding his demise, had been poking around in the files of their very first case and that somehow he apparently awakened the spirit of a murderer who has now eliminated one of them and seems determined to take the life of the other. May begins retracing Bryant's movements in the few days preceding the explosion, examining Bryant's cryptic, almost indecipherable notes and recalling the events of their first active case in November 1940.
Bryant and May were brought to London's Palace Theater to investigate the bizarre death of a dancer on the eve of the presentation of a controversial production of "Orpheus in Hell." There was initially the possibility that the death might have been an accident; yet, as more deaths occur, by increasingly violent means, the two men were drawn to the conclusion that they are dealing with a cunning, unknown killer with a diabolical motive. As May reviews the events that occurred decades before against the backdrop of war-torn London, he gradually comes to realize that an individual from that investigation has unexpectedly and inexplicably reappeared to wreak havoc once again.
Fowler does a breathtaking job of recreating war-torn London from without and within the Palace Theater, capturing not only the stoic resignation of the public to the horrific bombing but also the theatrical elements of the era. Fowler's descriptions of the theater, from the staging areas, the offices and the costumes to the actors themselves, are simply incredible. While he obviously conducted an incredible amount of research in the writing of this book, that fact does not fully credit Fowler's almost magical ability to transport the reader back in time, to make the passages in the novel read as if they were diary entries written as the bombs fell.
The conclusion of FULL DARK HOUSE is also nothing less than wonderful. I had to take a bit of license here not to reveal it, but I doubt anyone reading FULL DARK HOUSE will object; the journey here is the equal of the destination. Fowler also liberally sprinkles cryptic references to other historical Peculiar Crimes Unit cases, enough so that his readership can expect several more volumes of Bryant and May mysteries in the future.
FULL DARK HOUSE is an ambitious and challenging beginning to what will hopefully be a long-running series.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific read about murder and the theatre! May 11 2005
By K. MacAlister - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, but when you take into account its ingredients-- London 1945, London present day, the Blitz, the theatre, murder, a murderer who seemingly can walk through walls, and two detectives in the Peculiar Crimes Unit-- you've got to keep on reading to see how the author manages to pull off all the plot elements and still keep the reader involved. And he does, beautifully. I am looking forward tho the next installment of Bryant and May, the two detectives.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever on the surface, yes, but deep as a well.... Feb. 16 2007
By silversurf - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a detective story of sorts, but don't read this book expecting the usual type of mystery story. Of course there are crimes to be solved, and an investigation to be carried out, with lots of plot twists and all the usual trappings of detective fiction. There is an ensemble of odd characters, eccentric heroes and twisted villains. There is also a very atmospheric evocation of life during the air raids on London during World War II. I thought that all of this was very well-done and interesting. But what really hooked me into this book was the obvious love the author (and his characters) have for the deep history and diverse people of London. Every bit of the book is alive with strange and fascinating London lore, and fortunately for the readers of this series, that is an inexaustable well of material that even the finest fiction can't match.

This book is not for everyone, but if you like quirky fiction that operates according to its own laws, and takes you to places you might never find on your own,you may enjoy this book (and series) as much as I did.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting new series. July 23 2005
By L. J. Roberts - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What an interesting use of contrasts. Fowler brings to life 1940s London during the Blitz offset by the Millennium Eye; the chaos of the streets during the Blitz and the insularity of a theatre; traditional police procedure versus use of a medium; a difficult, quirky detective offset by a personable classic investigator. I felt the plot was overly complex and the story slow at times, but I was held in the story by the strong writing, humor, and the relationship between the two protagonists. I look forward to reading the next book in this series.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, witty and involving, a worthy read March 12 2006
By Marilyn G. Henry - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a 'frame' story, one that begins and ends in the present and works back into the past of many years ago, during the blitz in London. There are returns to the present throughout, but it is the past which dominates and fascinates as we get a sense of what it must have been like during that horrific time in London history.

The author tells an absorbing tale while evoking for us the overlying fear and sense of helplessness, as well as the courage of Londoners. The darkness that prevailed, the smell of smoke and ash, the ruins of store fronts, the gaping holes in streets...this is the backdrop as John and Arthur pursue a shadowy killer through an old dark theatre. The workings of theatre life are also well done. Given what is going on in the world, our detectives pause to wonder if one lone murderer matters very much in a London full of death and destruction, but they must stop him, nevertheless. Lots of plot twists and turns, murders, flights into the bowels of the old theatre, as well as into the fog of a blackout, as our detectives attempt to unravel the secret of the mythological clues the killer leaves behind.

I loved the history, the revelation of what it must have been to live in the daily horror of bomb blasts--and best of all I loved the company of those two lovable, eccentric, elderly detectives. From the moment Fowler puts the thought in May's head that Bryant resembled a young Alec Guiness, he nailed him for the rest of the series. I saw him first as Guiness was in 'Great Expectations' (as Herbert Pockets), then as he was much later in 'Scrooge', and even with a hint of 'The Lady Killers' scarf-draped criminal genius. That Guiness image will stay with me as I continue to read through this series.

I've finished 'The Water Room' and now am into 'Seventy-Seven Clocks.' Maybe by the time I have finished this one, Fowler will have a new one out. I certainly hope so as I am so enjoying these two marvelous fun characters who have made me laugh out loud and shiver in suspense. Not your traditional police procedural novels, these stories seem more character driven, yet with plenty of mystery story.

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