Christopher Fowler's ninth episode in his acclaimed Peculiar Crimes Unit novels manages, quite well, to keep his reputation (and the series) intact. In "The Memory of Blood," Fowler's detective duo of Arthur Bryant and John May unravel another mystery (a series of, yes, murders) in grand fashion.
As readers of the previous books know, the Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU) is a specially set up organization to handle the more "sensitive" cases, usually pertaining to high-level politicians, royals, the wealthy, or high-profile celebrities--too hot for the usual teams of Scotland Yard to handle.
In "The Memory of Blood," we find the duo once again involved with scenes from "the theatre crowd" whereby a new theatre, the New Strand, is staging "The Two Murderers." Alas and alike, art imitates life, it seems. During a cast party reception at the home of the theatre owner Robert Kramer, Kramer's baby is found, tossed out of his bedroom window, six floors below. Very dead. Lying on the floor is a life-sized puppet, Mr. Punch (of Punch and Judy). Horrific as it is, Bryant and May have a job to do. Catch the murderer. But there are a plethora of questions abounding already, not to mention a whole host of suspects: everyone at the cast party.
Clearly, of course, Fowler is in charge of his story and after a while, the case is solved. It's not so much that the case is solved in this book (or in this series) but how it is solved. Bryant is well beyond his sell by date, aging and, certainly, a bit eccentric, not only in his methods of crime fighting, but in his personal behavior as well. Rude, crude, and often simply mystifying, Bryant nevertheless is a brilliant detective. His modus operandi is offset by the more stable, logical, and level-headed May. And what a team they make. Fowler's appeal though is more than just giving us a murder mystery. His very clever, very literate, often achingly satiric, and usually witty prose make for added enchantment. His love and knowledge of the London theatre (and appreciation of Shakespeare) are simply bonuses.
"The Memory of Blood" is a literate, readable story, and the author brilliantly uses just enough wit to undercut the real tragedies of the murders. A good read, indeed.