The History Of Bryant & May

ALL THE BRYANT & MAY BOOKS SO FAR…

Arthur Bryant and John May are Golden Age Detectives in a modern world. They head the Peculiar Crimes Unit, London’s most venerable specialist police team, a division founded during the Second World War to investigate cases that could cause national scandal or public unrest. Originally based above a London tube station, the technophobic, irascible Bryant and smooth-talking modernist John May head a team of equally unusual misfits who are just as likely to commit crimes as solve them.

The novels are written chronologically, but can just as easily be read out of order (in fact, some volumes benefit from doing so, the exceptions being ‘On The Loose’ and ‘Off The Rails’, which should be read together). The cases take on the different styles of the classic detective stories. Here are the novels so far, in reverse order…

Bryant & May No. 15: Wild Chamber (Coming Next)

In which Mr May Takes A Walk In The Park

And Mr Bryant Gets Lost In The Wilderness

Our story begins at the end of an investigation, as the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit race to catch a killer near London Bridge Station in the rain, not realising that they’re about to cause a bizarre accident just yards away from the crime scene. The accident will have repercussions for them all…

One year later, in an exclusive London crescent a woman walks her dog – but she’s being watched. When she’s found dead the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. Why? Because the method of death is odd, the gardens are locked, the killer had no way in or out and the dog has disappeared.

At first it looks like a typical case for Bryant & May, but mysteries surround the victim – a missing husband, a lost nanny and a killer preparing to strike again…

Arthur Bryant investigates the hidden history of London’s ‘wild chambers’ – its extraordinary parks and gardens, while John May and his staff find they’ve caused a national scandal. If no-one is safe then all of London’s open spaces must be shut…

With the members of the PCU placed under house arrest, only Arthur Bryant remains free – but can one old codger catch the criminal and save the unit before it’s too late?

RAYMOND LAND: If anyone else starts winding me up they’ll soon discover the less forgiving side of my nature. I can be a right Dr Jekyll when I have to.

BRYANT: You do know that Mr Hyde was the bad one?

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Bryant & May No. 14: Strange Tide

In which Mr May Hunts a Riverside Killer

And Mr Bryant Gets Into Hot Water

The river Thames runs through London like an artery. When a young woman is found chained to a post in the tide, no-one can understand how she came to be drowned there. At the Peculiar Crimes Unit, Arthur Bryant and John May find themselves dealing with an impossible crime committed in a very public place.

Soon they discover that the river is giving up other victims, but as the investigation extends from the coast of Libya to the nightclubs of North London, it proves as murkily sinister as the Thames itself. That’s only part of the problem; Bryant’s rapidly deteriorating condition prevents him from handling the case, and he is confined to home. To make matters worse, his partner makes a fatal error of judgement that knocks him out of action and places everyone at risk.

With the PCU staff baffled as much by their own detectives as the case, the only people who can help now are the battery of eccentrics Bryant keeps listed in his diary, but will their arcane knowledge save the day or bring disaster? Even when there’s a clear suspect in everyone’s sights the one thing that’s missing is any scrap of evidence.

As the investigation comes unstuck, the whole team gets involved in some serious messing about on the river. In an adventure that’s as twisting as the river upon which it’s set, will there be anything left of the Peculiar Crimes Unit when it’s over?

MAY: I watched you head off into the fog and honestly thought I’d never see you again.

BRYANT: I have the theatrical gene. I said goodbye to London, but London isn’t quite finished with me yet.

‘Is there anyone else in the crime genre currently writing anything as entertainingly off-the-wall as Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May series? Fowler eschews all recognisable genres, though the cases for his detective duo have resonances of the darker corners of British Golden Age fiction. And if you aren’t already an aficionado – and have a taste for the outré — I suggest you try Strange Tide and find out what the fuss is about.’ – Crime Time

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Bryant & May No. 13: London’s Glory

In Which Mr May Races The Clock

And Mr Bryant Meets A Secret Santa

Here are eleven missing cases from the files of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit, filled with dark deeds and strange suspects – from the circus ringmaster and his travelling freak-show to the femme fatale who coolly announces that she is about to kill a man, from the foggy 1950s to the swinging sixties and the present day. There’s a baffling poisoning at sea, a death in thick fog, an impossible murder in a snow-covered field, a killer on a mystery tour and an assassination in a crowded street of shoppers, plus many others.

BRYANT: I’ve reached the age when my back goes out more often than I do.

ALMA: You went to see your friend Sidney the other day.

BRYANT: I went to his funeral. I don’t call that much of a day out.

‘This series is quite simply one of the best modern mystery series of any persuasion…right up there with the genre greats.’ The Locked Room Mystery

‘This is a wonderful companion to the Bryant and May series. Not only are there eleven short stories featuring our elderly and eccentric detectives, but there are notes on all the regulars and also a divine cartoon of the Peculiar Crimes Unit premises. As always, Fowler delivers a feast of cases with that slightly skew-whiff view. This really is great stuff.’ – Crimesquad Magazine

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 Bryant & May No. 12: Bryant & May and the Burning Man

In Which Mr May Finds A Firestarter

And Mr Bryant Misplaces His Mind

London fell under a very modern siege. A banking scandal filled the city with violent protests and as the anger in the streets detonated, a young homeless man burned to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.

But all was not as it seemed; an opportunistic killer used the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims were so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit had to be called in to find a way of stopping him.

Using their network of eccentric contacts, Arthur Bryant and John May hunted down a murderer who adopted incendiary methods of execution. But they found their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case came to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.

At the same time, several members of the PCU team reached dramatic turning points in their lives – but the most personal tragedy was yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reached its climax, Arthur Bryant faced his own devastating day of reckoning.

BRYANT: People are sick of being treated as if they’re invisible, fit only to be used up and cast aside like any other exhausted commodity. The uprising is coming from something deep inside us, all of us.

MAY: Funny how upset you got when someone knifed the tyres on your Mini.

BRYANT: That’s different. One should never confuse legitimate protest with vandalism.

‘It is difficult to do justice to the job of explaining just how very superior these books are to many of today’s offerings.’ – Pursewarden Blog

‘This is the 12th novel to feature the fabulously unorthodox detectives Arthur Bryant and John May and their colleagues at London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit. With the City in chaos as anti-capitalist protesters, enraged by the latest banking scandal, don Guy Fawkes masks and take to the streets, the octogenarian pair find themselves pitted against a killer who is taking advantage of the mayhem to dispatch his victims in a variety of ingenious ways, all fire-related. Fowler, an unashamed anorak, takes delight in stuffing his books with esoteric facts; together with a cast of splendidly eccentric characters ranging from white witches to unfrocked and potty academics, corkscrew plots, wit, verve and some apposite social commentary, they make for unbeatable fun.’ – The Guardian

Bleeding Heart

Bryant & May No. 11: Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart

In which Mr May Faces Premature Burial

And Mr Bryant Confronts His Childhood Fears

It was a fresh start for Bryant & May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Teenager Romain Curtis saw a dead man rising from his grave in a London park and heard him speak. The next night, Romain was killed in a hit and run accident. Stranger still, in the minutes between when he was last seen alive and found dead on the pavement, someone changed the boy’s shirt.

But Arthur Bryant was not allowed to investigate. Instead, he was sent off to find out how someone could have stolen the ravens from the Tower of London. It appeared that all seven birds had been snatched from one of the most secure buildings in the city. And legend says that when the ravens leave, the nation falls.

Meanwhile, the PCU uncovered a group of latter-day bodysnatchers, visited a strange funeral home and went to Bleeding Heart Yard, where a gruesome London legend involving a heart pierced with arrows seemed connected to the crime…

Death was all around. More graves were desecrated, there was another bizarre murder and the symbol of the Bleeding Heart started turning up everywhere. It was even discovered hidden in the detectives’ offices. It seemed as if the Grim Reaper was stalking Bryant, playing on his fears of premature burial…

BRYANT: I must take this call. If anyone wants me I shall be in my boudoir.

LAND: You haven’t got a boudoir, you’ve got an office!

‘In a class of their own.’ – Janet Maslin, New York Times

‘Although Arthur is a believer in the spirit world he’s primarily a historian who delights in the idiosyncrasies of venerable old neighborhoods. A burial ground is right up this historian’s dark alley – and mine.’ – New York Times Book Review

‘If Edgar Allan Poe and Monty Python had lived in the same country and the same century and somehow struck up a creative collaboration, their work might have resulted in fiction similar to Fowler’s. Fowler’s intelligent and appealing series fills the void, and his latest effort sparkles with weird and wonderful plots, characters and settings.’ The Richmond Times-Dispatch

10a. The Casebook of Bryant & May (Graphic Novel)

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In which Bryant & May chase after the murderous Soho Devil, come face to face with a rhinoceros in Trafalgar Square and search for the owner of a severed hand at the Post Office Tower in Swinging London. Two stories from myself and genius ‘Commando’ artist Keith Page, plus crime profiles, Mr Bryant’s bookshelves, alternative covers and lots more! Available from PS Publications.

BRYANT: Why do women always do that thing with you?

MAY: What thing?

BRYANT: The gooey-eyes.

MAY: They sense my charisma.

BRYANT: Smell your aftershave, more like.

invisible code

Bryant & May No. 10: Bryant & May and the Invisible Code

In Which Mr May Breaks The Law

And Mr Bryant Cracks The Code

As detective Arthur Bryant’s memoirs are published, he starts to feel his age. But a case is coming that will change his life. A young woman called Amy sits in a quiet London church, and is found dead in her pew after the service. But no-one has been near her. She has no marks on her body and the cause of death is unknown. The only odd thing is that she had a red cord tied around her left wrist.

At a government dinner party to welcome heads of state, the wife of civil servant Oskar Kasavian gets drunk and insults the gathering. She believes she has been made a social outcast by her husband’s friends because she is a foreigner from a lower class. Angered by the invisible code that governs British class behaviour, she continues to behave so badly that she is eventually sectioned.

But Bryant thinks she is being victimised. Soon he is investigating Hellfire clubs, class warfare, secret codes and the history of Bedlam. Then the wife is found dead with a red cord around her wrist. In the biggest case of their careers, Bryant & May take on the establishment itself, knowing that they cannot possibly win.

‘You need to start acting your age, Mr Bryant.’

‘If I did that, I’d be dead.’

‘As before in these quirky narratives, the reader is taken on a fascinating (and often bizarre) journey which is notably difficult to read in short measures – the insidious Mr Fowler demands our total attention. Just remember that if you unwisely start reading the book two stops before your destination…’ – Crimetime Magazine

‘The Bryant and May series — two old-fashioned detectives trying to cope with the modern world — is witty, charming, intelligent, wonderfully atmospheric and enthusiastically plotted. But never mind the plot; it’s the telling of it that counts.’ – The Times

Memory Of Blood

Bryant & May No.9: The Memory Of Blood

In Which Mr May Pulls The Strings

And Mr Bryant Performs An Illusion

On a rainswept London night, the wealthy unscrupulous Robert Kramer hosts a party in his penthouse just off Trafalgar Square. But something is wrong. The atmosphere is uncomfortable, the guests are on edge. And when Kramer’s new young wife goes to check on their baby boy, she finds the nursery door locked from the inside.

Breaking in, the Kramers are faced with an open window, an empty cot, and a grotesque antique puppet of Mr Punch lying on the floor. It seems that young Noah Kramer was thrown from the building, but the child was strangled, and the marks of the puppet’s hands are clearly on his throat…what’s more, there was a witness.

It’s a perfect case for the Peculiar Crimes Unit. As John May and his team interrogate the guests, Arthur Bryant heads into the secret world of automata and stagecraft, illusions and effects. His suspicions fall on the staff of Kramer’s company, who have been employed to stage a gruesome new thriller in the West End. As a second impossible death occurs, the detectives uncover forgotten museums and London eccentrics, and take a trip to a seaside Punch & Judy show.

Then Bryant’s biographer suddenly dies. Was it a tragic accident, or could the circumstances of her death be related to the case? There’s just one hour left to solve the crime, but Bryant has buried himself away with his esoteric books. The stage is set for a race against time with a surprising twist…

RAYMOND LAND: This office is starting to look like your old room in Mornington Crescent.

BRYANT: Of course. It’s the contents of my head.

RAYMOND LAND: It certainly contains the contents of a head, unless you’ve had the brainpan of that stinking Tibetan skull cleaned out.

‘Christopher Fowler manages to write detective novels that are warm homages and mild pastiches of the Golden Age while at the same time excellent stories in their own right. In ‘The Memory of Blood’ there is even that rare element, the locked room mystery.’ – Sunday Times

Off the rails

BOOK 8: Bryant & May Off The Rails

In Which Mr Bryant Goes Underground

And Mr May Leads The Chase For A Fox

London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit has been given a week to clear its backlog of investigations. But the only mystery on their books looks like a mundane accident – a young mother falls down the escalator in a rush-hour tube station, in full view of commuters and cameras. Still, detectives Arthur Bryant and John May are nagged by the doubt that something wicked has occurred.

When a clue links a second corpse to the London Underground, Bryant needs no excuse to start investigating the strange history of forgotten stations, ghosts and suicides, as a seemingly trivial clue sends him searching for a clever killer who always covers his tracks. With the suspect list spreading to include a household of students, it seems everyone has secrets to hide. And who is the sinister night crawler spotted in the tunnels after the last train has pulled out?

It’s a mystery Bryant & May were born to solve. With the Peculiar Crimes Unit roaring back into business in new premises, everyone’s favourite elderly detectives are heading down onto the darkened platforms of the world’s oldest underground railway to hunt murderers. To solve the puzzle they must explore a unseen world, uncover hidden histories and stop a ruthless killer from striking again. But the biggest shock is discovering that nothing is ever as it appears.

The eighth Peculiar Crimes Unit novel has all the ingredients you’d wish for, and a few dark surprises up its sleeve…

BANBURY: A serial killer, that’s what I reckon we’ve got here. We’ve not had many of them at the PCU, have we?

BRYANT: Not proper saw-off-the-arms-and-legs-boil-the-innards-put-the-head-in-a-handbag-and-throw-it-from-a-bridge-jobs, no.

‘Sophisticated, fast-paced and confounding until its final twist, Bryant & May Off The Rails is Christopher Fowler dead on track and at the height of his power to beguile, bewitch and entertain.’ The Book Critics

 

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BOOK 7: Bryant & May On The Loose

In Which Mr Bryant Hunts A Headsman

And Mr May Digs Up Something Ugly

Londoners are losing their heads. In rush-hour King’s Cross, one of the busiest crossing points in Britain, finding a murderer would be a nightmare for any force. But when a decapitated body is found in a shop freezer, London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit is not summoned – because the unit has been disbanded, and elderly detectives Bryant & May have no access to evidence that can help them find a killer. The situation worsens with the appearance of a second headless body.

And something is disturbing the area’s property developers. Half-man, half-beast, the figure appears at night on building sites in the mystical image of a forgotten legend. The detectives uncover the Pagan secrets of the historic streets and start to discern a pattern. But the sinister solution will lead them to the heart of the city’s oldest mystery…who really owns the London landscape? As they get close to the truth, Bryant & May make a very bad enemy indeed.

Everyone’s favourite elderly detectives are back, out of the system and on the loose, searching for body parts, behaving disgracefully and exposing London’s most closely guarded secret – a secret kept by the ground upon which the city itself is built…

RAYMOND LAND: You can’t tell me what to do. I’m your superior officer.

BRYANT: Oh, that’s just a title, like labelling a tin of peaches ‘Superior Quality’. It doesn’t mean anything.

‘The eccentric views of London in Christopher Fowler’s playful Peculiar Crimes Unit novels will gladden the heart of anyone who appreciates an offbeat mystery…is this fun or what?’ – The New York Times Book Review

‘So much of the appeal of these books lies in the opportunity given to the reader to spend time with these beautifully realized characters, to step into their world and feel welcome. Imagine the X-Files with Holmes and Watson in the place of Mulder and Scully, and the books written by PG Wodehouse, and you have some idea of the idiosyncratic and distinctly British flavour of the Bryant & May novels, with some lovely tongue-in-cheek dialogue and sly asides.’ – Black Static magazine

‘The detectives tackle their latest interlocking puzzles with gleeful energy and savvy as well as a keen interest in even the strangest of detecting methods.’ – Seattle Times

The Victoria Vanishes

BOOK 6: THE VICTORIA VANISHES

In Which Mr May Goes After A Killer

And Mr Bryant Goes For A Beer

It begins with a life lost on a London street; a middle-aged woman collapses outside a public house called The Victoria Cross. Yet it becomes one of the most disturbing cases the Peculiar Crimes Unit has ever undertaken…

Arthur Bryant passes the woman just before she dies. But when he returns to the scene a few hours later, nothing is how he remembers it. For a start, the busy nineteenth century pub is now a supermarket. The elderly detective’s greatest fear is that he might be losing his mind. After all, he managed to mislay a friend’s funeral urn on the same night.

While Bryant faces some home truths about perception and memory, his partner John May investigates a similar death occurring in a busy London pub. A killer is taking lives in the city’s safest and most convivial places, but how is he doing it, and why?

The detective’s search involves arcane mysteries, secret societies, line-dancing, speed dating, hidden insanity, and the solution of London’s most extraordinary forgotten conundrum. But naming the murderer is only the beginning of their problems, because closing the case means performing the impossible…

Christopher Fowler’s legendary detectives are at the peak of their powers, as their unit enters its darkest hour.

BRYANT: I wish I remember what I did with Oswald’s ashes, because that was really where it all began – oh my God.’

MAY: What’s the matter?

BRYANT: I just remembered what I did with them!

‘The great tradition of English eccentricity has many flag-bearers in the mystery field, with Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May series prominent among the crop. Fowler writes devilishly clever and mordantly funny novels that are sometimes heartbreakingly moving.’ – Val McDermid, The Times

 

white corridor PBBOOK 5: WHITE CORRIDOR

In Which Mr Bryant Gets In A Jam

And Mr May Goes Below Zero

The unthinkable has happened at London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit. A key member of staff has been found murdered, and everyone who works there is suddenly a suspect. But Arthur Bryant and John May aren’t on hand to solve the crime. They’re stranded on a desolate snowbound section of country road. As the blizzard worsens, they attempt to solve the crime long distance using only their mobile phones.

Unfortunately, their situation is about to worsen. Unknown to the stranded detectives, an obsessed killer has travelled from the Riviera to Dartmoor, and is stalking the stranded vehicles, searching for one particular victim, coming closer with each passing minute…

As if it didn’t have enough trouble, the Peculiar Crimes unit is about to receive a demanding royal visitor, and the Home Office is preparing to shut the PCU down when the visit inevitably goes wrong…

Two murderers, two incapacitated detectives, just six hours to solve two crimes and save the unit. Armed only with their wits, woolly coats and a stack of dubious veal and ham pies, Bryant & May are bracing themselves for a day trapped inside the white corridor…

BRYANT: Look at the snow falling in the trees. It’s so postcard-pretty out there. I’d forgotten how much I hate the countryside.

MAY: That’s because you never spend any time there.

BRYANT: Why would I? Rural folk think they’re so superior just because they have a village pub and a duck pond.

‘Another triumph for the Peculiar Crimes Unit!’ – Independent On Sunday

 

ten-second staircase

BOOK 4: TEN SECOND STAIRCASE

In Which Mr Bryant Suffers For Art

And Mr May Hunts A Highwayman

When a controversial artist is found dead in her own art installation, inside a riverside gallery with locked doors and windows, the only witness is a small boy who insists that the murderer was a masked man riding a stallion.

Then a television presenter is struck by lightning while indoors…clearly, they’re the kind of impossible crimes that only Bryant & May can solve. But Bryant has lost his nerve following a disastrous public appearance, and May is fighting to keep the unit from closure.

With a sinister modern-day highwayman bringing terror to the London streets, the detectives track their suspects to an exclusive school and a deprived housing estate. But the highwayman starts to become a national hero, and the public turns against them…

Exploring the dark side of celebrity, the conflicts of youth and class, and the peculiar myths of old London, Bryant & May are back on the case with a vengeance…

BRYANT: That’s what happens when you get older. You become irritated by the views of others for the simple reason that you know better and they’re being ridiculous. Some silly man will start complaining about police brutality until I want to beat him to death with my stick.

‘I’m dead-serious when I say I believe Fowler’s work will one day stand alongside Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie in terms of prestige. He’s simply that strong. Mystery fans have no reasonable excuse to ignore him – or his invaluable creations – any longer’ – Bookgasm

 

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BOOK 3: SEVENTY SEVEN CLOCKS

In Which Mr Bryant Runs Into Evil

And Mr May Runs Out Of Time

Arthur Bryant, writing his memoirs, recalls a case from 1973. As strikes and blackouts ravage the country, a rare painting is vandalised in the National Gallery, and members of a high-born family are killed in a variety of lunatic ways – by tiger, bomb and barber.

As the hours of daylight diminish towards winter’s shortest day, Bryant & May discover that a Victorian legacy holds the key. It’s a mystery that leads behind the sealed doors of ancient London’s guilds and to a murderous legacy of British imperialism. Time is running out for the detectives, unless they can find the seventy seven clocks…

PC: How long have you been a policeman, Mr Bryant?

BRYANT: Longer than you’ve been alive, mate.

PC: That must make you the oldest team on the force.

BRYANT: Not if we keep lying about our ages.

‘Life always seems livelier whenever Arthur Bryant and John May are on the case’ – New York Times

Fowler has few peers when it comes to constructing ingenious and intricate plots–or integrating contemporary technology into a golden age mystery plot.’ – Publishers Weekly

Water Room pb

BOOK 2: THE WATER ROOM

In Which Mr Bryant Goes Under The Street

And Mr May Hunts A Killer Above It

Bryant & May’s investigation of a secret world beneath London begins when a woman is found in a dry basement with her throat full of river-water. In the quiet street where she lives, the residents are unsettled by the sound of rushing water. Further impossible deaths reveal a connection to the lost underground rivers of London, and a disgraced academic hunts an ancient secret that will soon be lost within the forgotten canals. Meanwhile it won’t stop raining, there’s a flood coming, and nobody’s house is safe as Bryant and May head beneath the city to stop a murderer from striking again.

MAY: You cannot act against the law, Arthur!

BRYANT: You can when the law is an ass.

‘An imaginative funhouse of a world where sage minds go to expand their vistas and sharpen their wits’ – New York Times

‘An example of what Christopher Fowler does so well, which is to merge the old values with the new values – reassuring, solid, English and traditional. He’s giving us two for the price of one here.’ Lee Child

‘Quirky and original and very funny; the relationship between Bryant & May is done brilliantly. People who like Holmes and Watson will love this. Absolutely fascinating.’ Mark Billingham

FULL DARK HOUSE PB

BOOK 1: FULL DARK HOUSE

In Which Mr May Gets Stage Fright

And Mr Bryant Gets Blown To Kingdom Come

In this, the very first case, when Arthur Bryant is blown up in his office and all that’s left of him is his false teeth, his partner John May looks for clues to his death. The hunt takes him back through the years to the unit’s foundation, the worst day of the blitz, and a murder investigation in the Palace Theatre, where an outrageous production of Orpheus In The Underworld is being staged, and where the principle dancer has been found without her feet.

Everyone in the theatre is a suspect. Soon there are more bizarre deaths, and as our argumentative young detectives track their elusive quarry through the blackout, the fog and the bombs, they unwittingly follow the pattern of the play, chasing Orpheus to Hades…

BRYANT: ‘You must be Mr May. What should I call you?

MAY: John, Sir.

BRYANT: Don’t call me ‘sir’, I’ve not been knighted yet. And at this rate I never will be.

‘A wonderful setting which allows the author to trawl through many different subjects, from the signs and symbols of Greek mythology to outright horror and Baroque excess. Wartime London is conjured up with unique skill…Fowlers powers of description are enviable.’ – Independent on Sunday

‘Why did Full Dark House win so many awards? Quite simply, it’s a cracking good read that spans the boundaries of many genres.’ – Book & Magazine Collector

‘A proper old-fashioned puzzle. You feel pleased when you spot stuff. Golden age detective story-writing, one where the reader feels clever when they get it right.’ – Kate Mosse