Edgy, suspenseful, and darkly comic, here is the first novel in a riveting new mystery series starring two cranky but brilliant old detectives whose lifelong friendship was forged solving crimes for the London Police Department's Peculiar Crimes Unit. In Full Dark House, Christopher Fowler tells the story of both their first and last case--and how along the way the unlikely pair of crime fighters changed the face of detection.A present-day bombing rips through London and claims the life of eighty-year-old detective Arthur Bryant. For his partner John May, it means the end of a partnership that lasted over half-a-century and an eerie echo back to the Blitz of World War II when they first met. Desperately searching for clues to the killer's identity, May finds his old friend's notes of their very first case and becomes convinced that the past has returned...with a killing vengeance.
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. Agent, Howard Morhaim. (June 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
Out With A Bang
It really was a hell of a blast.
The explosion occurred at daybreak on the second Tuesday morning of September, its shock waves rippling through the beer-stained streets of Mornington Crescent. It detonated car alarms, hurled house bricks across the street, blew a chimney stack forty feet into the sky, ruptured the eardrums of several tramps, denuded over two dozen pigeons, catapulted a surprised ginger tom through the window of a kebab shop and fired several roofing tiles into the forehead of the Pope, who was featured on a poster for condoms opposite the tube station.
As the dissonance pulsed the atmosphere it fractured the cityýs fragile caul of civilization, recalling another time of London bombs. Then, as now, dust and debris had speckled down through the clear cool air between the buildings, whitening the roads and drifting in the morning sunlight like dandelion seeds. For a split second, the past and the present melted together.
It was a miracle that no one was seriously injured.
Or so it seemed at first.
When Detective Sergeant Janice Longbright received the phone call, her first thought was that she had overslept and missed the start of her shift. Then she remembered that she had just celebrated her retirement from the police force. Years of being woken at odd hours had taught her to focus her attention within three rings of the bedside telephone. Rubbing dreams from her head, she glanced at the clock and listened to the urgent voice in her ear. She rose from the side of her future husband, made her way quietly (as quietly as she could; she was heavy-footed and far from graceful) through the flat, dressed and drove to the offices above Mornington Crescent tube station.
Or rather, she drove to what was left of them, because the North London Peculiar Crimes Unit had, to all intents and purposes, been obliterated. The narrow maze of rooms that had existed in the old Edwardian house above the station was gone, and in its place wavered fragments of burning lath-and-plaster alcoves. The station below was untouched, but nothing remained of the department that had been Longbrightýs working home.
She made her way between the fire engines, stepping across spit-sprays from snaked hosepipes, and tried to discern the extent of the damage. It was one of those closed-in mornings that would barely bother to grow light. Grey cloud fitted as tightly over the surrounding terraces as a saucepan lid, and the rain that dampened the churning smoke obscured her view. The steel-reinforced door at the entrance to the unit had been blown out. Firemen were picking their way back down the smouldering stairs as she approached. She recognized several of the officers who were taping off the pavement and road beyond, but there was no sign of the unitýs most familiar faces.