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Full Dark House
A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery
Bryant and May, Book 1
Christopher Fowler

Bantam [Reprint]
ISBN: 0553385534 / September 30, 2008
British Mystery / Detective

Reviewed by
Brenda Weeaks

Full Dark House is the first in series starring Arthur Bryant, John May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit. It’s a contemporary British detective series, but this title takes readers back to where the main characters first met –The London Blitz (1940).

After the current PCU headquarters is blown up the body of Arthur Bryant is found. This has May reminiscing about their 60-year-old partnership and considering retirement. Once the funeral is over May investigates the bombing. Information from Bryant’s landlady has him looking back at the partners’ very first case, 60 years ago. When May and Bryant met, Bryant was in charge of the PCU. Due to the war the PCU was located in a make-shift office. Even then Bryant was dealing with the Brass wanting to close the unit down or throwing every menial case at them. (I speak past tense because I started this series with Memory of Blood). In their first case, a dancer loses her life and her feet at the Palace Theatre. It’s a complicated, queer case involving the Theater players and its wealthy, foreign owner. It has everyone in the unit perplexed. Bryant has his peculiar theories and resources, whereas May, young and green as he is, has a more grounded idea who it may be… We also get the first insight in to May and Bryant’s personal lives, past and present, which leaves us with many questions.

Full Dark House is a great start to this one-of-kind series. The mystery is dark but not overly descriptive as in most typical police procedures. The dialogue flows and the characters are truly unique. I love the main characters of PCU, even the aggravating Biddle... Fair warning: the conclusion to the 1940s case reopened is extremely so sad. I did enjoy going back in time to see the chemistry May and Bryant had and how it kept them together for decades. There are some interesting although very slight traces of paranormal, too. Highly recommended.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Reviews of other titles in this series

Full Dark House #1
The Water Room #2
The Memory of Blood # 9 [review1] [review 2] [review 3]
Invisible Code #10 [review 1] [review 2]

Reviewer's Note: Christopher Fowler was nominated by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association for the Dilys Winn Award, given to the book that booksellers most enjoyed selling. The Victoria Vanishes was also nominated for best novel by British Fantasy Society and won Crimefest's Last Laugh award for funniest mystery novel.
Posted 2012