In modern day London, a bomb destroys the building housing the Peculiar Crimes Unit, claiming the life of Arthur Bryant, seniormost detective at age eighty. Devastated, John Mays, Bryant’s colleague and staunch friend for more than half a century, starts looking into the last few days of Arthur’s life for clues. Coded notes indicate that Arthur had reopened the very first case the two had investigated back in the days of the Blitz of World War II and to his horror, Mays discovers that somehow a murderer from the past had come back to kill again.
The story then flashbacks to a bygone era when London was being daily bombarded by German planes and chaos reigned. But terror of an unknown sort haunts a risqué new production of "Orpheus in Hell" at the famous Palace Theatre, as one by one the actors are being killed in a most bizarre manner. In the process of finding the killer, aptly dubbed the Phantom, a young Arthur and an even younger Mays form a fledgling partnership in the newly established PCU, with the staid, logical Mays balancing an unorthodox Arthur’s flights of fancy, a practice that’s to continue for the rest of their careers. The narrative whips back and forth in time, drawing ever closer to the solution. But will the slayer be caught before he makes Mays his next victim?
Thrilling, exciting, edgy and realistic – Full Dark House is easily all that and more. Bryant and Mays make a brilliantly complementary pair; they’re a curious amalgamation of fantasy and facts and, despite and because of their differences, they become friends. The story, which progresses simultaneously in the past and present, contains a mystery and an investigation which stretches across time and holds the readers fully absorbed. Fowler’s skill in atmospheric and in-depth description is obvious, whether unfolding war-torn London and the indomitable sprit of its people under constant attack by German air force or a modern, glittering London torn apart by gang wars and terrorism - or even two irascible old detectives and various other characters. Even the workings of a theatre, both on and off stage with all its glitter and sleaze, is described with aplomb. Terror is unceasing as a faceless killer roams the dark corridors of a vast theatre, and the relentless suspense is guaranteed to keep the readers on the edge of their seats. Overall, set in a dynamic period of history, this first novel in a promising new mystery series is well-plotted, has a unique cast of characters and as such is not to be missed.