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Full Dark House: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery (Bryant & May #1)

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  4,059 ratings  ·  613 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…wi ...more
Paperback, 356 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Bantam (first published 2003)
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Dan Schwent
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
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.
Lois Bujold
May 09, 2014 Lois Bujold rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
The Flooze
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
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
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
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
Jill Hutchinson
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
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
I've just seen that this appears on a list called something like 'Good cosy series...' And cosy is exactly what it is. Full of familiar places and gentle humour, nothing taxing... just... cosy.

It's a good light read, good enough for me to launch straight into the second in the series. Those books on philosophy will have to wait!
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
Shirley Schwartz
This has got to be the most eclectic and strange pairing of detectives that you'll ever find in crime fiction. Bryant and May are introduced to us here in the first book of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. This strange crime unit is located in London. The time is actually 2005 (when the book was released), but it flips back to crimes in 1940 at the beginning of WWII and right during the Blitz. Bryant and May, when we meet them are old curmudgeonly detectives that have worked together in the Peculiar Cr ...more
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!
Christopher Fowler can write an interesting, intelligent, informative book.
FULL DARK HOUSE is set in London in both the present and during the blitz in November1940. It begins with the destruction of a building housing the Peculiar Crimes Unit, part of the North London Police Department. Only one person, Detective Arthur Bryant, was known to have been in the building. What remains were found were buried. Among the attendees was his longtime partner, Detective John May and Detective Sergeant J
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I'm not much of a mystery fan, so am not able to comment knowledgeably on that aspect of this book. (Although I'll say that the ending was by no means a shocker.) But I'm very interested in Fowler's description of London and Londoners living under the Blitz. That's quite compelling, and I suspect a lot of the setting, the conduct of the bombing raids, the civil defense measures etc are historically accurate.
Bombs were particularly devastating when they hit crowded stations. One hundred and eleve
David Hebblethwaite
I enjoyed Christ Fowler’s seventh Bryant & May mystery last year, and was interested to find out what the earlier ones were like. Now I’ve gone back to the beginning with Full Dark House and... well, perhaps I’m just being difficult, but now I wonder what it would have been like had I read this one first!

But there is a sense in which reading the first book out of order makes a difference to how one perceives it, because Full Dark House begins with Arthur Bryant apparently dying in an explosi
Seizure Romero
WARNING! Pseudo-spoilers ahead. But not really.
Ok, so I read The Water Room (the second Bryant & May mystery) before I read this one, so the big mystery of the first book isn't really... well, it just isn't (new library aphorism: a book in the hand is worth two on hold).

This first book suffers a little because Fowler switches back and forth between Bryant & May's first case in 1940 war-time London, and May's current search for the bomber who destroyed th
I've read some of Fowler's short work, and while I enjoyed his prose style, I'm not a big fan of the horror genre, and thus never looked into him any further. However, as a fan of detective fiction, I was very curious to see what his efforts in that genre would bring. This first book in his "Bryant and May" series introduces the reader to the detective duo, who meet in 1940 as London is getting hammered nightly by the Blitz. Bryant is the 22-year-old head of an obscure police unit set up as a du ...more
The Lit Bitch
The job of The Peculiar Crimes Unit is an interesting one. Their job is to fritter out strange crimes and cases that seem impossible to solve.

I like to think of this particular story as a Phantom of the Opera meets Sherlock Holmes style detective novel. I really loved the concept of a theater ghost, even though Phantom of the Opera has a similar concept, in this book it was portrayed much differently. I thought it added a flamboyant flair to the story.

The mystery was a puzzel that kept me intere
This first book in the Bryant & May series contains two mysteries: the first case they worked on together in 1942 and an event that may or may not stem from that first case in 2002. Starting as very young detectives, Bryant and May have worked together for 60 years! They are the center of a division called the Peculiar Crimes Unit and based on this story I'm waiting to see how "peculiar" the next crimes are. Bryant is fond of using witches, seance mediums, and other "other-worldly" assistanc ...more
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English Mysteries...: February 2013 - Full Dark House 38 131 May 06, 2013 11:34AM  
Southbank Reads: Full Dark House Discussion Begins 3 14 Oct 25, 2012 01:01PM  
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)
  • Bryant and May on the Loose (Bryant & May, #7)
  • Bryant & May's Mystery Tour (Storycuts)
  • Bryant & May Off the Rails (Bryant & May, #8)
  • Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood (Bryant & May, #9)
  • Bryant & May and The Invisible Code (Bryant & May #10)

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