Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by Christopher Fowler
Transworld, August 2003
382 pages
ISBN: 0385605536

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

FULL DARK HOUSE begins with a present day explosion that destroys the headquarters of the presumably fictional Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU) and kills detective Arthur Bryant. Bryant's partner, John May, believes that the cause dates back to their first case in 1940, and it is there, in the middle of the Blitz, where most of the action takes place. A Greek entrepreneur is staging a very risqué production of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld, and as opening night draws closer the cast begin dying and disappearing in mysterious circumstances.

FULL DARK HOUSE is tongue-in-cheek and is often very funny, almost an alternate universe look at World War Two London. The humour comes across as a tribute to Londoners' ability to keep their chins up during the darkest period in the great city's history. But there is also a serious side to this book, subtle commentary on the horrors of war and the Blitz in particular, and many memorable sit-up-and-take-notice passages. However loud you may laugh at times, the bombers are ever- present in the background waiting for their next opportunity.

The main characters of Bryant and May are an intriguing pair with complementary abilities. John May is the more traditional of the two detectives while Arthur Bryant has a liking for spiritualism and, much to the displeasure of his superiors, has been known to call in a clairvoyant. Bryant's disposition provides some of the funniest moments of the book as Fowler pokes some good-natured fun at the mystical sub-genre, and in particular at cat detectives.

If you like Greek mythology then Fowler makes good use of the Orpheus theme to explore this area as an integral part of the mystery. Unfortunately I know very little of this subject, so these sections dragged for me and I felt that they could have been better written so as to hold the interest of the novice. A lot more fun, however, were the references to a more recent classic with the sightings of a phantom of the opera-like character in the labyrinthian theatre.

As the Can-Can brings the operetta to a close so too do Bryant and May bring their case to a close, and then back in the present day John May finally makes the discovery that will end the affair 60 years after it started. FULL DARK HOUSE has a surreal feel about it and the resolution, although I felt it was unsatisfactory, certainly matches the tone of the book.

With over 60 years of potential cases to refer back to Fowler has plenty to explore as his new series continues. Overall, FULL DARK HOUSE was a lot of fun and I'll definitely be looking forward to the next Bryant and May mystery.

Note : This review was based on the Australian edition. FULL DARK HOUSE is scheduled to be published in America by Bantam in June 2004.

Reviewed by Paul Richmond, December 2003

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]