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Full Dark House (Bryant & May #1)

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  5,415 Ratings  ·  759 Reviews
A bomb rips through present-day London, tragically ending the crime-fighting partnership of Arthur Bryant and John May begun more than a half-century ago during another infamous bombing: the Blitz of World War II.

Desperately searching for clues to the saboteur’s identity, May finds the notes his old friend kept of their very first case and a past that may have returned…wit
Paperback, 356 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Bantam (first published August 4th 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Dan Schwent
Jul 24, 2009 Dan Schwent rated it really liked it
Arthur Bryant and John May are parters in the PCU and have been for over sixty years. That's Peculiar Crimes Division. At least they were, until a bomb goes off and ends their partnership. While May copes with his loss and tries to piece together what happened to Arthur, he thinks about their first case and how the two events may be related.

I never thought I'd enjoy a book about the partnership of two crotchedy British detectives so much. The primary setting, a old theatre during the WWII bombin
A mysterious phantom haunts a creepy old theater in an apparent attempt to scare the performers and keep the latest production from starting. Does that sound like a Scooby Doo episode, or is it just me?

“I’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!” Or in this case, meddling English detectives instead of talking dogs and damn dirty hippies.

Actually, this was a pretty dark and well done mystery with an intriguing concept and structure. Arthur Bryant and John May have been dete
I think my love for this series was summed up in a phrase of one of the characters portrayed by author Christopher Fowler: "Everyone wants the things that remind them of childhood. I just re-imagine them with the materials of the present." Full Dark House captures my favorite aspects of my "childhood" mysteries-Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, especially come to mind, dressed up in very contemporary dark humor and time manipulation.

Although not the first I've read, Full Dark House is the fir
Dec 12, 2008 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It starts in modern day & left me with a Hmmmm as the text talks of a wartime mystery/crime to solve, there’s also a reveal which further unravels the series.....

Then we’re back into the past & in London theatreland at the height of the blitz, a whole host of characters are thrown at the unsuspecting reader all with the tag of “potential murder” hanging over them leaving me totally flummoxed, situation normal then!

Murders, missing people, suspects multiple, clairvoyants, spiritual “stuff
Jan 25, 2016 Marwan rated it really liked it
Well, this Crime Fiction was better than I thought it'd be, I'd give it 5 stars if it wasn't too long and too detailed. But it's to be expected since it's a historical fiction also.
The novel is the first in the series that revolves around the adventures of Arthur Bryant and John May in the peculiar crime squad unit. It focus on the first case they worked on together during the world war 2. It's about a series of murders that occurs in the Palace theater, a murderer who moves swiftly and mange t
Jan 03, 2009 Liz rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hate to cheat, but I may just cut to the end. Have you ever felt annoyed with a book for wasting your time? This is one of those books. But don't take my word for it - lots of positive comments on mystery forum. Other readers enjoy the history (ww2 Britain) and humor. I enjoy history too, but it if it isn't delivered in a compelling style it doesn't make the book worthwhile. And the humor, well, if quirky, cranky & British make characters fun for you, read this book. I need a really good s ...more
Nancy Oakes
If I had to classify this novel in terms of genre, it would be somewhere along the lines of British police procedural meets the X-files. I was thinking while I was reading this that it would make a fun movie, but I countered that thought with the knowledge that some screenwriter would just screw it up, so better to leave it in book format.

What a cool book! I originally bought this book in mass market paperback format eons ago, but never got around to reading it until I saw the same book in trad
Dec 21, 2016 Veronica rated it it was ok
There was too much that was vague about this story for me to rate it any higher. The chapters shift between the present (the book was published in 2003) when Arthur Bryant and John May are both in their eighties and 1940 when they're working their first case together as members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. The problem is that, when it comes to the relationships and the investigation of multiple murders, there is too much telling and not enough showing. For the investigation things are suddenly a ...more
Lois Bujold
May 09, 2014 Lois Bujold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like dark mysteries and/or WWII settings
Recommended to Lois by: chat list discussion

Well, hm.

This book was recced to me for humor, which turns out not to be quite the case -- more irony and dark wit. Too dark for my current reading needs, which took it down a star subjectively, but well written, which added a star objectively. Quirky and eccentric without being cozy.

Written in omniscient, with parallel tales taking place in two times -- Detectives Bryant and May's first case, occurring during the London Blitz, and their last, in the early 21st Century. The omniscient voice allo
May 15, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah I have finally finished it - I will have to hold my hand up and apologise this book took far too long to read and that should in no way reflect on the quality of the story or abilities of Christopher Fowler - nope this one sits with me. A mixture of bad timing (I was reading it as I was preparing to head to the US on business) and the fact I am shallow and was easily distracted by other books to read at the same time.

But what of the book! Well this if I remember correctly (go on correct me) w
Mar 02, 2017 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You're either going to love or loathe this book about a British detective in his 80s who finds himself revisiting the first case he worked on (60 years ago) with his partner in the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Be warned that this is not a fast-paced book and it is, unsurprisingly, filled with flashbacks. Flashbacks usually drive me crazy, but I was ok with them in this book.
Aug 13, 2008 Chuck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-series
Christopher Fowler introduces you to Arthur Bryant and John May, lead detectives of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit in this first of a great series! While the PCU specializes in using unusual methods to solve their anything but routine cases, to simply call Bryant and May off-beat would be unfair. Fowler uses clever plots, dark humor, and a memorable supporting cast to tell his stories. The fact that Bthe main characters have been at their jobs since the early 1940s, putting both comfortably in th ...more
FULL DARK HOUSE (Police Procedural-London-Cont/WWII) – G+
Fowler, Christopher – 1st of series
Bantam Books, 2003- Hardcover
When a present day bombing of the Peculiar Crimes Unit kills elderly detective Arthur Bryant, his partner, John May looks to their first case for clues as to why.
*** 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
May 09, 2016 Josen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-library
3.5...........This was a fun mystery that took place during WWII in London. The investigation was headed by two detectives, Bryant and May, of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. "They meant peculiar in the sense of particular, but the damage is done.....".

What I liked most about this story was the camaraderie and humor between the partners. There were quite a few places that gave me a good laugh. I could totally picture these two playing off each other like a good buddy movie. This is the first in a ser
Nov 29, 2016 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime
Has just that little bit of cleverness, humour, and originality that goes such a long way in a crime series. Also a genuinely skin crawling moment to cherish.
Aug 18, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It takes a lot of skill, if not a lot of nerve, for an author to set up a book seemingly about the exploits of a crime detective duo and apparently kill one of them off on the first page.

But that’s what happens here. In present day London, an incendiary device is set off in the office of London Metropolitan Police’s Peculiar Crimes Unit, which not only destroys their police files but kills Arthur Bryant, one half of a detective double, Bryant and May.

The surviving detective John May is now on t
Three and a half stars really. I liked the background (a London theatre during the Blitz), I had a bit of trouble making sure who was who, though! Maybe it was me, or maybe it was the fact that the book constantly shifted between the past and the present. But it was certainly an interesting read, often humorous, and although I tended to mix up Bryant and May, I might get used to them better in a second episode.
Kathy Davie
Feb 21, 2016 Kathy Davie rated it really liked it
First in the Bryant and May Peculiar Crimes Unit historical mystery series and revolving around a pair of detectives who, thankfully, balance each other, and which flips between 1940 and 2000 in London.

In 2004, Full Dark House won the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel and was nominated for the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel.

My Take
It’s a peculiar start with the death of one of the main characters. In between, there are some flamboyant theatrical deaths…shades of Phantom of the Opera
Jun 13, 2014 Antonomasia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london, crime, 2014
Starting this series after reading three of Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant stories, they're a glaringly obvious comparison: same city, same occupation, same surname shared by main characters - though slightly different occult to police from a shoestring, maverick unit of the Met. Basically, Fowler is a bit more serious - the same recognisably British comic tone hovers under the surface, but never becomes cheeky or flippant, befitting protagonists about sixty years Grant's senior. And as a friend ...more
Jul 19, 2013 Bandit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really thought I would like this more. The premise is great and I'm a fan of Fowler, he does terrific short fiction. But eventually seems like every author falls into a trap of serialized fiction. Fowler did so with Bryant and May, a pair of grumpy old men, formerly slightly less grumpy young men, who work for Peculiar Crime Unit...a british police force for the crimes that are somewhat off the beaten path. The book alternates narratives from present time(semi present, the book came out 2003) ...more
The Flooze
Feb 18, 2009 The Flooze rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a delightfully British mystery, we meet Bryant and May, detectives in the Peculiar Crimes Unit. The story flits back and forth between the Blitz and the present, as May tries to find a correlation between a modern day bombing and the first crime he and Arthur Bryant tackled.

Pitching back and forth between two time periods, we learn much of the Unit's beginnings in a war torn climate. A series of murders in a theater contrasts with the numerous deaths surrounding London. While dodging bombs f
The first of Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May mysteries (& the first of his books I've read), Full Dark House is one of those wonderful mysteries that lays out all of the clues for you straight from the beginning of the book. It's amusing (& irritating) to look back over the story, putting the pieces all together, realizing that if you'd only been a bit smarter you could have figured the whole thing out yourself.

Sadly, I'm NOT that smart. The person I pegged as the murderer . . . wa
Jan C
May 21, 2011 Jan C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, england, 2011
Excellent. I can't wait for #2 - once I find out what it is.

I was stumped.

It was kind of confusing though - always jumping backwards and forwards through time. One place we are in the '40s and then the next thing you know, we are back in the present day. Admittedly both cases did tie together but it took me a little bit grasping that we were no longer in the same time zone.

Sorry time traveler lovers - this is not "time travel" but just two stories in two different decades taking place within the
Jill Hutchinson
Jul 20, 2011 Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The madness begins!!!!........this is the first of the popular Peculiar Crimes Unit series featuring the elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May. I had read others in the series before I read this one which provides the background of the main characters and the beginnings of the Unit. This book filled in the gaps.
The story begins with a back story set in modern times with May thinking back about his initial days in the Unit during the Blitz in WWII. The actors in an about-to-open play are
Kathleen Dixon
What a thoroughly enjoyable detective novel, set both in the present day and in the past (during the Second World War). We move regularly from one setting to the other, with no chapter headings nor even a date, but each time it's quickly obvious where (when) we are with the 'clues' giving me nice little pleasures each time. For example:
A taxi splashed past with a dirt-smudged child sitting on the running board.
Outside, on the steps of Kentish Town police station, a gang of teenagers were screami
Sandy Lenahan
Holy Moses this was a tough one to get through, not a bad one just slow moving and for the first few chapters a little confusing.

Told from two different London time lines; the first, November 1940 during the blitz and present day (2003ish) detailing both the beginning and unfortunate end of the 6 decade long working & friendship of Arthur Bryant and John May principle investigators of the London Police forces Peculiar Crimes unit. Fowler's story is as cumbersome as my previous sentence. Vam
Despite the darkish plot twists, the book is a little too nice for a crime novel, to my liking. Nevertheless, I don't regret the time spent)

It tells the story of two British detectives from the Peculiar Crimes Unit and their first and last cases. The first takes place at the time of WWII when London is already way too dark and peculiar for people to be ruthlessly slain in an opera house. The second is out times, and one of the detectives goes missing after an alleged terrorist attack.

Frankly, it
I love British novels. I had not realized that pursuing something too enthusiastically is called "over-egging the pudding." "Tickety-boo" means running smoothly, with all parts in order. Also, agreeing to become a soldier or sailor is "taking the King's shilling." And I'm sure you can figure out the meaning of "get your conkers polished."

The plot is incredibly farfetched, but the characters and dialogue are so entertaining that I didn't mind.

"This is a tragedy for all of us, Ben," said Helena Pa
Dec 21, 2014 Sara rated it liked it
3.5 stars actually. The history of the Palace Theatre was fascinating and if I ever get to London, I want to go there! I got a little tired of Arthur's shtick but au fond, he is a sympathetic character, and I enjoyed the popping back and forth between the 1940s and the present day. Tried to find book #2 but it is not in my library so I am reading a later one in the series now. Good light reading!
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English Mysteries...: February 2013 - Full Dark House 38 133 May 06, 2013 11:34AM  
What Shall I Read?: Christopher Fowler 6 15 Oct 24, 2012 03:04AM  
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Christopher Fowler is an English novelist living in London, his books contain elements of black comedy, anxiety and social satire. As well as novels, he writes short stories, scripts, press articles and reviews.

He lives in King's Cross, on the Battlebridge Basin, and chooses London as the backdrop of many of his stories because any one of the events in its two thousand year history can provide ins
More about Christopher Fowler...

Other Books in the Series

Bryant & May (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • The Water Room (Bryant & May, #2)
  • Seventy-Seven Clocks (Bryant & May, #3)
  • Ten Second Staircase (Bryant & May, #4)
  • White Corridor (Bryant & May, #5)
  • The Victoria Vanishes (Bryant & May, #6)
  • On the Loose (Bryant & May, #7)
  • Off the Rails (Bryant & May, #8)
  • Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood (Bryant & May, #9)
  • The Invisible Code (Bryant & May #10)
  • Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart (Bryant & May, #11)

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