With Staff Picks, we would like to offer recommendations from our staff to you. These picks will be from a variety of reading, listening or viewing tastes. You might find stuff you've checked out before, or you might be intrigued enough to discover a new favorite.
Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
Fans of the mystery genre will enjoy Christopher Fowler's premier of the Bryant and May series, Full Dark House : A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery, which revolves around two octogenarian pals and colleagues who have run a little-known department of London's Metropolitan Police for over 60 years.
This story begins in the early 2000s when Peculiar Crimes Unit chief Arthur Bryant is presumed dead in an explosion. His partner, John May, believes the attack is related to Bryant's most recent works … which turn out to be Bryant's memoirs. The explosion occurs after Bryant has begun poking about in his files regarding the duo's first PCU case together. From here, the story vacillates between the present mystery and 1940s London where the pair explore a series of Phantom-of-the-Opera-style murders that take place at The Palace theatre during rehearsals for a controversial showing of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.
The 1940 mystery is well-composed (Fowler provides a variety of possible culprits), the plot parallel to Phantom of the Opera is a fun gimmick that encourages this reader to stay with the series, and the characters are personable and well-formed. Still, I was most particularly taken by the hauntingly emotive descriptions of life in London during the Blitz. In true British fashion, Fowler tosses in details and related dialogue in an offhand, no-nonsense style that only serves to highlight the pervasive effects of The Great War on the British homefront. This story, therefore, is doubly suited for mystery readers and history buffs.