A robust murder mystery and police procedural in which the past comes back to haunt the present.
When a bomb destroyed the London offices of the Peculiar Crimes Unit early one Sunday morning, founder and lead detective Arthur Bryant had been seen already inside, still at work from the night before. Work was Arthur’s life, after all. His long-time partner and second-in-command, John May, was devastated by his sudden death; their personal and working relationship stretched back decades to WWII during the Blitz.
Despite his grief, May pulls himself together, determined to find the bomber and bring them to justice and avenge his friend’s death. His investigation immediately focuses on their current cases. But as he backtracks Bryant’s movements on his last days and the cases he was working on, the clues seem to lead him to London’s the Palace Theatre, the location of May’s very first case with Bryant more than a half-century earlier. Bryant had always been interested in the supernatural; was his death a matter of a ghost from the past returning to wreak death and destruction in the present?
If you’re interested in a puzzling mystery and a realistic story of living in London during the Blitz, Full Dark House is for you. The author recreates wartime London with the populace already amid nightly bombing raids by the Germans, sudden death, destruction, sleepless nights, rationing, and the indomitable spirit of the British people.
The mysteries are intriguing, and the circumstances in the Palace Theatre are palpably tense throughout the book. The murders are pretty unusual and kept me wondering when the next shoe (or body) would drop. I know I’ll have an extra shiver or two the next time I visit a theater.
I enjoyed the two main characters, though; with the complex storylines and two full investigations running, I didn’t get a complete picture of who these men really are. Arthur Bryant is quirky and interested in myriad subjects, willing to experiment, and has a secret personal tragedy in his past. He reminded me of CSI’s Gil Grissom if he’d been operating in 1940s London. John May is the steady, normal one. Together, we are told, they balanced each other out to create a very successful investigating partnership for the Peculiar Crimes Unit. I also liked that some of the supporting characters in the present-day part of the story were the children of former Peculiar Crimes Unit members active at the time of the flashback crime.
However, this book felt long and seemed to drag at times. There were two crimes and two timeframes, and this is the setup for a series, so I’m also feeling it is to be expected, so I plan to read the next book in the series.
I recommend FULL DARK HOUSE to mystery readers that enjoy a full-on, step-by-step investigation in their stories, historical mysteries, or mysteries set in London during WWII or in a theatre setting.
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