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How many crime novels start with a death? Almost all of them and this one is no exception except that it isn't what you'd expect..... and I'll say no more, because I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise!
This is the first book that Christopher Fowler wrote featuring his elderly detective duo, Bryant and May, in their own right. The story centres around a series of murders that happened during the Blitz at the Empire Theatre, and a single murder in the late 90's/early 2000's. The plots skip along at a fair rate, are complex, and will keep you guessing to the end in both cases. The book is chock full of the usual Fowler London trivia and of course Arthur is fabulously rude to almost everyone in the process. There are also a couple hilariously foul practical jokes played on the pathologist, Oswald Finch.
The narration is up to Tim Goodman's usual high standard although it is sometimes apparent that this was the first novel he read in the series as some of the character voices are still bedding in. Arthur is pretty consistent throughout but sometimes the young John May sounds a lot like Raymond Land does in later books but you soon get used to it.
So the big question, bearing in mind that there are 9 in the series with a tenth one due in August 2012; if you are new to B & M and fancy dipping your toe in these wonderful renditions of the capital and its quirks, should you start with this one (as logic would suggest)?
My advice would be no, start with the Water Room (book 2) which is a more conventional crime novel and come back to this one after you've read the first couple as it clears up a few points in the back story of the pair. The reason for waiting is that the jumping back and forth in time between the two main plots of the Full Dark House can get a bit confusing first time around. In fact, the author himself has also suggested not reading this one first; rather a new reader should start with one of the later, more conventional novels.
48 of 49 people found this review helpful
Having come across Bryant and May in one of Christopher Fowler's earlier horror novels I was interested to catch up on them. The novel mainly takes place in the war with some links to the modern day. I love the main characters and the narrator has created a brilliant voice for each. I love the way the story unfolds, allowing the detectives to ponder various explanations to the events unfolding. The heavy feeling of the supernatural veiling the real events at first leads me to think that it is again a horror novel, but settles into a more pleasing crime novel with a peculiar aspect, which I suppose is the whole point of their unit.
I am now hooked on the series and will be downloading more.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I agree with other reviewers that the narration was a distraction. The voices were complicated to follow and tell apart which made the story confusing. The unusual mispronunciations peppering the reading became irritating. I disliked the narration so much that I gave up on the book. I think this is one series I will need to read in print to enjoy. Do listen to the sample first to be sure that it won't bother you. It ruined the book for me.
38 of 44 people found this review helpful
I stumbled upon this book while searching Audible for another mystery series. Right off the bat, this met several of my criteria:
a) significant number of books in the series and on Audible (8);
b) takes place somewhere interesting that I don't know much about (London)
c) has the added bonus of a fun accent (British)
And then, once I read the book, I could add well-developed, interesting characters to the list, as well as two cases for the price of one. The case in the present has to do with Arthur Bryant, the eccentric half of Bryant & May (John May is the straight arrow), who is trapped in a building when it inexplicably explodes; and the case taking place in WWII London delves into theater life, the prevailing culture, and Greek mythology to solve a host of murders. This book does a nice job of setting the scene of the WWII times without getting overly emotional about it: Yes, it was unfathomably awful; but Londoners were doing their best to keep calm and carry on. The story follows the detectives as they stumble their way through the 1940's case (their first one) and in turn updates the reader on progress on the modern-day case, all the while being easy to follow.
The narrator does a very good job with the several voices and accents.
Note: I use the Goodreads rating system (three stars = liked it, four stars = really liked it).
11 of 15 people found this review helpful