Full Dark House – Christopher Fowler

This is the story of Arthur Bryant and John May a rather peculiar combination of detectives who work in the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Its inception in the dark days of the Second World War and right through some 60 years later, we are taken to their first case featuring some rather unexplained deaths in a theatre and a bomb explosion that has killed Arthur Bryant.

What Christopher Fowler does is take us on two intertwining stories, the story of the present is important to the story of the past. The unique characters of Bryant and May make for amusing reading. Their methods are both unique and unnatural as well as regular and by the book. But which will give the right result?

Fowler takes us into the depths of the Blitz, the blackout, the noise, the damage, to the point where you felt you were really there and could hear the sirens, smell the smoke and fear the outcome. The descriptions he uses for London in the war are just as relevant and as London in the present day. The comparisons are there and this sets the background for the two intertwining stories.

Everything is very dark in the Palace Theatre including the murders and it is all wrapped up in a Greek tragedy. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is tasked to investigate for fear of upsetting public morale during the Blitz. The play itself is more likely to upset public morality with is overt sexuality and nudity. But the show must go on, despite everything including Bryant and May trying to control the comings and goings of the theatre. Is it something tangible that is haunting the theatre or is it the supernatural?

Move forward 60 years and May is left to pick up the pieces when the Peculiar Crimes Unit is destroyed in an explosion and Bryant is declared dead, having been working diligently in the office as he had always done. May knows Bryant was onto something having found slight evidence that he was going back to their first case together, the murders at the Palace Theatre. Someone is haunting May and seems to be stalking him, but is it relevant to the explosion or the murders previous.

The story does take a lot to get going, and there was a point where I did feel like putting the book down as the story jumped about all over the place. However to any potential reader I would say, stick with it, because the dark humour, the murderous intent of the unknown all come to fruition in what becomes a fast paced story. Though the Greek god elements were a bit lost on me, my knowledge there is rather rusty or nonexistent!

A good first book introducing us to two characters that feature in subsequent books. If you want something quirky with your crime and perhaps feel Agatha Christie is not quite quirky enough but enjoys the golden age of crime then this could be the series of books for you.

This was the first book I read in the Transworld Crime Caper Challenge. I have been looking at it for a while and it has been in and out of my Amazon basket on more than one occasion, so when I saw listed for this challenge then I knew I must read it. It was better than I thought, especially as I felt for a long while the book was not going anywhere. It eventually did and I spent most of Saturday just past reading it because I wanted to get to the conclusion!  If I Never See You Again by Niamh O’Connor is the next book I requested, not an author I have come across before so I am looking forward to it.