When a bomb devastates the office of London's most unusual police unit and claims the life of its oldest detective, Arthur Bryant, his surviving partner John May searches for clues to the bomber's identity. His search takes him back to the day the detectives first met as young men in 1940.
In Blitz-ravaged London, a beautiful dancer rehearsing for a sexy, sinister production of 'Orpheus In The Underworld' is found without her feet. Bryant & May's investigation plunges them into a bizarre gothic mystery, where a faceless man stalks terrified actors and death strikes in darkness. Tracking their quarry through the blackout, searching for a murderer who'll stop at nothing to be free of a nightmare, the duo unwittingly follow the same path Orpheus took when leading Euridyce from the shadows of Hell.
Back in the present day, John May starts to wonder if their oldest adversary might be the killer who took his partner's life. He must work alone to solve a puzzle that began over half a century earlier...
In a war-shaken city of myths, rumours and fear, Bryant & May discover that a house is not always a home, nothing is as it appears, the most cunning criminals hide in plain sight, and the devil has all the best tunes. Dark drama and black comedy combine as Bryant & May take centre stage in their first great case.
It's no surprise to find plenty of gothic touches in British author Fowler's debut mystery, the first in a series, given the renown of his horror fiction (Rune, etc.). When 80-year-old police detective Arthur Bryant gets blown up in an explosion at the North London Peculiar Crimes Unit headquarters, his longtime partner, John May, investigates his death. After some long, lecturing dialogue and an early chapter told from the viewpoint of a character who turns out to be of no consequence, the author reaches the core of his story a flashback to the duo's first case during the London Blitz. In late 1940, the Palace Theatre is staging a production of Orpheus in the Underworld when the body of a dancer is found, sans feet. From this point forward, the intrigues of the theater murders, which decimate the cast, create considerable drama. The potency of Greek myth, conjured up by the opera being staged, is skillfully played out in the detectives' theories about the killer. The dynamic between May and Bryant makes for compelling reading, while the hubris of a police underling, Sidney Biddle, provides additional tension. Both past and present plots reach satisfying resolutions. Now that Fowler has set the stage, no doubt his second Bryant and May mystery will get off to a better start.
Start of a brilliant series
Expertly written complicated thriller populated by a magnificent set of characters. Though they had appeared in Fowler's earlier "Rune" this is Bryant and May's first outing as leading gents. Tinged with gothic horror and spiced with obscure facts about London this book is an excellent starter for a quite mesmerising series.
Gave up half way through on the nth explanation of stages and scenery. Flat characters, improbable and not original. I just didn’t care about the characters and and the probable staged death: the “Empty House”?