Full Dark House is the first novel in the long running series that follows the enigmatic detectives Bryant and May as they attempt to solves crimes that few would dare to touch. The novel begins in a very unexpected and quite brilliant manner, by one of the main characters dying in a large explosion. Not the most successful way to begin a series you might think but through this act we are transported some 60 odd years back into the past when Bryant and May first met and re-live their first ever case, which strangely enough seems to have some bearing on the fatal disaster all those years in the future.
London of the 1940's was a very different place, with many of it's citizens fighting for King and Country and those that remained under constant threat of German bombers raining death and destruction from the skies. Against this backdrop a serial killer is at large, stalking actors connected to one Theatre within the city; a Theatre which is getting ready to show a daring, sexy and sinister production of Orpheus In The Underworld. Its up to Bryant and May to put a stop to these gruesome deaths, a search for a monster that may take them further than they could ever imagine.
The Bryant and May series are actually based around three central characters, the third being the city of London itself and this colourful character is brought to life complete with it's grand majesty, little foibles and dark recesses. What better time to join such a character that at its time of greatest danger with daily bombings by the ruthless Luftwaffe, an ever-present threat of destruction combined with the very real threat of invasion.
I love how the author manages to move the story from the present day with quite ancient detective May right back to the much younger, impressionable and naive character and the polarisation between these times is brilliant. The author writes with a powerful, dynamic voice which manages to evoke a Gothic style, a refreshing twist on the urban fantasy detective style and one that works very well within the war-torn streets of London. As they often say the Devil is in the detail and the author has clearly gone to a great deal of trouble to research the Blitz and it really does show. The story progresses nicely, building tension and drawing the reader in, the author creates a rich ambience that highlights a well paced plot and brilliant interplay between the characters.
Compelling is an understatement, a series that starts with the end and re-winds right back to the very beginning, it doesn't even feel like the start either; using such a well known name already evokes a feeling of Déjà vu and by the end of the book you feel like you've known Bryant and May all your life.
A Quirky, rich Gothic crime drama with an unmissable duo set in a vibrant London, highly recommended.
Written on 7th August 2012 by Ant.
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