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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Thrilling Thursday: Review of Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler

My thanks to Nikki-Ann at Notes of Life who hosted a Bryant and May giveaway that introduced me to this excellent and quirky crime series.

Author: Christopher Fowler
Title: Full Dark House
Genre: Crime (adult)
Series: Bryant and May 1
Publisher: Transworld
Published: 2003
Source: won in a giveaway on Nikki-Ann's great Notes of Life blog

Find it at Goodreads or Amazon UK

The blurb says:
Arthur Bryant and John May of the Met's little-known Peculiar Crimes Unit are London's longest-serving detectives. When a bomb claims Bryant's life, it ends a partnership that has lasted for over half a century.

Desperately searching for clues to the killer's identity, May becomes convinced that the answer is to be found in their very first assignment together. It was in London, during the Blitz, and it all began when a beautiful dancer in a steamy new production of Orpheus in the Underworld was found without her feet...

And it was an investigation that would plunge the two young detectives into a bizarre gothic mystery - in pursuit of a faceless man who stalked the theatres of a nervous, beleaguered city already full of myth and rumour.

From the acclaimed author of Roofworld and Spanky comes a deliciously sinister drama in which two of British fiction's most enigmatic detective heroes - Bryant and May - take centre stage in this, their first great case.

My verdict: Engaging plot, fabulous characters - great introduction to a series
It's rare that a series opener can get away with killing off a main character, but Christopher Fowler pulls off exactly this. The bomb which kills Bryant becomes May's first case without him and takes him - and, of course, us - back to their first case together. This enables us to experience the beginning of May and Bryant's relationship with the benefit of hindsight, looking back on what we know to have been a successful partnership for over fifty years. Occasionally this backward-looking angle is made explicit in observations made about Bryant's or May's behaviour or their way of working.

The two investigations are woven in together, both narrated in the third person with a focus on different characters at different times. Both mysteries are satisfyingly twisty and tangled and there was more than enough to keep me turning pages. Since the two mysteries are over fifty years apart, there are plenty of differences in setting and circumstance to prevent us getting confused, and switches only happen at chapter breaks.

This is no high-speed thriller, but an intelligent crime story with real depth. Operating within a complex and exciting plot, the characters hold genuine interest in their own right and ensure that further stories in the series will be eagerly read.

I hadn't read any of Christopher Fowler's books before and I will definitely be seeking out the rest of the Bryant and May books at least. Thanks go to Nikki-Ann for holding this giveaway - it's certainly worked to bring Bryant and May a new reader!

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