Sometimes I get all book snobby, and feel like I know what a book will be like just by picking it up. When I picked up Full Dark House I expected something like a Jasper Fforde novel (which we know that I love) and I didn’t quite get it. Not that I didn’t enjoy Fowler’s novel, because I did. In true first-novel-of-a-future-series fashion Fowler goes into an introduction of characters and locations that slows down the narrative, but is important as there are currently several books in this series. The story centers around the Peculiar Crimes Unit and its two veteran detectives John May and Arthur Bryant.
The story begins with an explosion and during the subsequent murder investigation, May is lead back to his first investigation with Arthur Bryant. The Peculiar Crimes Unit exists to solve those cases that don’t fit into the regular scope of the Scotland Yard. As a result they are tucked away and not quite given the supervision that other units might have. This proves to be crucial to Arthur’s style of investigation. On their first case Arthur and May investigate the mysterious murder of a ballerina in the theater. Fowler has an excellent ability to weave description into a narrative that makes the story flow. Back in the good old high school days I was a thespian. Yes, that is right, I hoofed my way through the odd high school musical or two. There is a distinct atmosphere that accompanies theater and Fowler captured the sweat, grime, and energy that thrive in a theater environment.
The mystery is sufficiently complex to keep you guessing, but I found I had guessed a majority of the twists and turns. By the time the story wraps up, I was sad that Arthur was no longer around, and wondered where the series would go. No doubt this is the sentiment that Fowler meant to invoke as the end reveals distinct possibilities for many future novels, which explains why this is a series. I have the second book and am eager to find out what happens next.