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Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
118
4.0 out of 5 stars
Full Dark House: (Bryant & May Book 1)
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 18 April 2014
I loved this.
Maybe it's just a childhood diet of Secret Sevens and then Miss Marples -- but this just brings you back.
The two main characters are a mixture of woollen jacket, cord elbow patches, mothballs and damp newspapers -- London feels like the third man and the plot, although not clue driven keeps you interested, but to be honest, I'd have read this just for the over all nostalgic feel of it. I love that many of the light bulb moments are driven by the quirky outlook and understanding of either Bryant or May. I'll be back to Fowler's unusual crimes team for more.
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on 8 April 2017
This is the introduction to 2 great detectives with different personalities. Somehow, they manage to work together to solve very "Peculiar Crimes".
Read one and you're hooked!
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on 19 October 2017
too confusing
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on 27 August 2017
a very good first story in the series
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on 29 July 2014
great story line but the smutty language spoiled it for me
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on 24 November 2015
This book paints overly detailed pictures of irrelevant characters, wanders without direction and fails to build any suspense. It looked great but turned out to be really boring. Look elsewhere for nostalgia and intrigue.
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on 19 May 2015
Having read a couple of the latter entries in the Bryant and May series I thought it was time to see how it all began.

Its a difficult review to write as, having read the other books, one of the main storylines in this book is a bit of a non starter.

Its an intriguing premise and the portrayal of a blitz ravaged London is very well done, the damage and despair comes off the page very well and there is a cracking sense of atmosphere, when the action switches to modern day however things slow down a bit and I found those parts a bit of a chore if I'm honest.

I didnt feel as it the young Bryant and May were really very much different from their older selves, they still came across as old men even in the WW2 sections. As for the story, its a good old fashioned murder mystery with a touch of the macabre and bizarre, theres a large supporting case and I found it difficult in places to keep up with who everyone was. I do feel a little bit of knowledge about Greek myths and gods as well as the theatre and opera would have added to my enjoyment, there were parts where I felt I was a little out of my depth.

I felt the book was a little long winded, the author appears to have ironed this out of the later books I have read which were more concide and a bit faster moving.

I enjoyed the book as a whole and I will probably read the rest in the series as there is certainly enough room for the characters to develop.
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on 6 July 2017
This is another book I filched off of my partner before she got around to reading it. Unfortunately on this occasion she reclaimed it with extreme prejudice and considerable pain on my part before I had finished the last fifty pages. I had to wait two whole weeks before I got it back to finish and in all that time I was so excited waiting to find out whodunit, why and how the idiosyncratic detectives Bryant and May found out. To say I was disappointed is somewhat of an understatement. I had been prepared for something really good. The characters, the minor characters anyway are nearly all somewhere between flaky and completely bonkers. I loved them. Bryant and May the main characters are similarly interesting but always quite unbelievable being either too implausibly old to be serving police detectives in the recent past or way too young to be credible detectives during WWII when most of the story is set. At the end of the book I discovered I had been fed a very poor pastiche of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ without the style of the Lon Chaney version or the jolly singing of the Webber musical. I can’t say I wept but only because I wiped away my tears with the nearest kitten before I really got going.

In summary this is a turkey, it shouldn’t be, Fowler is a writer of some skill, the concept is great and the characters are mostly wonderful but it is!
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on 17 January 2015
Having been an avid follower of Christopher Fowler’s works for a number of years, I was excited when he announced he would be writing an entire book featuring his only recurring characters, Detectives Bryant and May of the Metropolitan Police’s Peculiar Crimes Unit. They had appeared in his earlier novel “Darkest Day”, but that was twelve years ago and, despite fleeting glimpses of them in “Soho Black” and “Rune” in 1998, little has been heard of them since then.

Now in their 80s and close to calling the end on their careers, the partnership is bought to a premature end by an explosion at the Bow Street office. Only John May knows that Arthur Bryant was inside. Devastated by the ending of a partnership that had lasted longer than his marriage, May, with the help of their other long time colleague, Janice Longbright, sets about finding who would want to kill his partner.

He discovers that Bryant has been looking back at their very first case together, a series of murders in and around the Palace Theatre during the Blitz. Following his partner’s lead, May suspects that Bryant’s death was related to this investigation and starts delving into their own past.

The story alternates between the two time frames, 1940 and 2003, with the progress of both investigations being followed. This can get a little confusing at times, as there doesn’t seem to be a huge distinction between the two time periods. The Blitz, rationing and other wartime events fill the 1940 section and the differences between London then and London now are fairly distinct. However, in most other aspects, this is not as true. The language is the most noticeable aspect, as there’s very little to suggest a time lapse of more than 6 decades, in either the way the characters speak or the language used to describe events.

The detectives themselves seem untouched by time, too. In the 1940s, Bryant seems older than his years yet in 2003, May seems younger than he should be. The 60-year gap between the two periods seems to have affected the city more than it has the detectives. Whilst this does help the story flow a little better and means the different time frames doesn’t affect the story too much, it does jar a little as you’re aware that most 80 year olds wouldn’t be doing the kind of thing that May does.

Not that what May does is really all that impressive. Despite the danger inherent in the time period and a slightly dark nature of the setting and the story, it barely raises above a standard murder mystery. Bryant’s deductive side makes him feel a little like an updated Sherlock Holmes, taking the investigation off at apparent tangents, most of which he keeps to himself, with May as his Dr Watson, doing most of the legwork.

There’s also little of one of Fowler’s other trademark, his love of London’s history. Although the recollections of how London and Londoners may have reacted during the Blitz may be accurate, there’s nothing about London’s history outside this period, which has long been something of a speciality and an interest of Fowler’s.

The mystery itself isn’t terribly gripping, which comes as a surprise with Fowler. He’s become a master of urban horror, writing situations that are realistic enough to believe they could happen to you, but dark enough that you know you’d rather they didn’t. There’s little of that here, as the very setting is quite fantastical and, despite some gothic touches, not as dark as his earlier work.

It’s also slower paced than much of his earlier novels, particularly the likes of “Spanky” and “Disturbia”. Although things do tend to move along fairly well, they don’t flow particularly well and the pace doesn’t really get moving at any real pace. This only adds to the mundane nature of the investigation. It’s not exactly predictable, but it’s not really anything special, and you’re unlikely to be hugely surprised or moved when the finale is reached, as there’s not been enough previously to grab your interest or make you care about what happens.

Given that the last Fowler I read, “Breathe”, disappointed me due to the lack of pages but entranced me with the story, this is more of a disappointment. It’s a decent sized book for the money, but isn’t nearly as enjoyable to read. It seems that Fowler can be inspired by all the nasty things that can happen in London, but that tidying up afterwards isn’t something of great interest to him.

Fowler is a great writer and deserves more fans that he seems to have. However, its novels like “Spanky” and “Soho Black” that have gained him the good reputation he has. “Full Dark House”, whilst not a bad novel, isn’t going to enhance his name or increase his fan base. It’s great to see Bryant and May getting a showing as lead characters, but the result has been fairly boring by Fowler’s standards. It’s really only one for Fowler fans and isn’t going to appeal to anyone else, being lacklustre even by Fowler’s standards and lacking any real appeal as a crime thriller for those who are new to his work. For anyone who has never read his books, I’d thoroughly recommend Fowler, but not this one.

This review may also appear under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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on 16 November 2007
Detective stories aren't really my thing but this one certainly caught my imagination. Basically, it's Phantom of the Opera in wartime London investigated by a pair of novice detectives. The spirit of the Blitz is evoked very well, with great detail and a real sense of being there. The plot is intriguing and the characters are both interesting and appealing - I could imagine the two 'tecs being played by a young Alec Guiness and John Mills. If you're looking for a mystery with a difference, and a lot of charm, then you'll certainly enjoy Full Dark House.
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