Monday, February 09, 2009

Full Dark House

Christopher Fowler launches his Bryant & May mystery series with an explosion that destroys the headquarters of the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London, along with Arthur Bryant, the elderly and eccentric detective that spent most of his waking hours there. John May, his colleague of many years, determines to discover the perpetrator of this outrage, following clues that force him to revisit the first case they solved together. So we follow two storylines--Bryant and May as fresh-faced novices exploring a string of theatrical murders during the London Blitz, and the modern-day May, painstakingly reconstructing the circumstances of the loss of his long-time partner in crime-solving.

Good things: Excellent characterizations, writing, and story line. Fowler skillfully manages the jumps between time periods without signposts--an impressive feat. And his development of the story is equally impressive--he neither clumsily tips his hand nor springs his surprises out of thin air, but smoothly brings you to the satisfying and clever resolutions of the parallel story lines. 

Bad things: The crudeness of some of the conversations is not to my taste. Also...(trying to avoid a spoiler here, but not succeeding entirely)...the nature of the murders suggested a cruel, even sadistic, mastermind, yet the unmasked villains are portrayed as pitiable, even pathetic. 

I'm still trying to decide if I will continue with the series. But if crudeness is not an issue for you, you could do much much worse.