Kemper's Reviews > Full Dark House

Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
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's review
Nov 04, 2009

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bookshelves: crime-mystery, historical-fiction
Read in December, 2009

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 detectives for London’s Peculiar Crime Unit for over 60 years. However, when Bryant is killed in a bomb blast that destroys their offices, the clues May follows indicate that Bryant was looking into their first case together.

In 1940, a string of grisly and bizarre murders are occurring in a theater getting ready to launch a controversial production. Since the rest of England is slightly busy dealing with the Blitz and the imminent invasion of the island by Germany, the case is pawned off onto the PCU and its understaffed group of under aged and inexperienced detectives. Brilliant but eccentric Bryant thinks that normal police methods won’t solve the crime while the more practical May tries to keep Bryant from venturing too far away from plausible explanations. In the present day, elderly John May tries to solve the murder of his friend.

The parallel stories of Bryant and May in 1940, and May’s investigation in the present was a great idea. And setting a murder mystery against the London Blitz is another terrific concept. More than one person notes that it seems slightly ridiculous to worry about a couple of murders when hundreds are being killed every night. But the British government wants a sense of calm and normalcy so it still frowns on someone offing their citizens. Even if they are just actors…

A good mystery with a dark sense of humor and an original setting, this was a fun read. My only real complaint is that as a native of Kansas City, the name Arthur Bryant is the name of a barbecue legend, restaurant and sauce here. So every time I read the name in this book, I instantly craved some beef brisket. And now I am HUNGRY!
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent The mystery was well and good but my favorite part was Bryant and May talking about sex in the first chapter. "Don't tell me you're going to attempt relations. It's disgusting that you still have a sex drive at your age."

Kemper Pretty gutsy for the author to have two guys in their 80's talking about their sex life at the beginning of the book. Because the 'Ewwww!' factor could make those without strong stomachs stop reading right there...

message 3: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Clearly, your disdain for dirty hippie culture has a long and storied history.

message 4: by Kemper (last edited Sep 06, 2013 04:18PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kemper Amanda wrote: "Clearly, your disdain for dirty hippie culture has a long and storied history."

My hippie hatin' credentials are well established.

message 5: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Why do I get the impression you watched a lot of Scooby Doo in your day? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Kemper Trudi wrote: "Why do I get the impression you watched a lot of Scooby Doo in your day? Not that there's anything wrong with that."

I did. And I still hold a burning hatred deep in my heart for Scrappy Doo. That little bastard....

I had completely forgot about this one and realized after seeing Amanda's comment that I also compared Joyland to a Scooby episode.

I must be slipping...

message 7: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Kemper wrote: "I must be slipping..."

Rut ro, Raggy . . .

message 8: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Ha!

message 9: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Kemper wrote: "I must be slipping..."

I slipped a long time ago.

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