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THE MEMORY OF BLOOD by Christopher Fowler


by Christopher Fowler

Pub Date: March 27th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-345-52863-6
Publisher: Bantam

The Peculiar Crimes Unit (Bryant & May Off the Rails, 2010, etc.) celebrates its new digs in Caledonian Road by investigating a murder whose leading suspect is Mr. Punch, of Punch and Judy fame.

The party to celebrate the opening of Ray Pryce’s The Two Murderers, critically panned but highly commercial, comes to a crashing end with the news that theater owner Robert Kramer’s 1-year-old son Noah has been hurled from his nursery window. Marks from the hands of a life-size puppet of Punch lying nearby are around the infant’s neck; the nursery door is locked from the inside; and the window is utterly inaccessible from the outside. If the puppet didn’t throttle and shake the baby to death, who did, and how did he or she make his escape? Called to the scene by the bizarre nature of the crime, Arthur Bryant and John May find many outsized egos—including handsome leading man Marcus Sigler, flamboyant assistant stage manager Gail Strong and snarky reviewer Alex Lansdale, all hiding guilty secrets—but no answers to the obvious questions. To make matters worse, Anna Marquand, the freelance transcriber to whom Bryant has been dictating his memoirs, dies shortly after being mugged outside the door of her flat. Nor is the killer of Noah Kramer content to call it a day. Three more partygoers will die, winnowing the list of suspects without casting any more illumination, before a final brainwave at a reprise of the fatal party leads to an arrest.

Though no single element stands out, Fowler achieves a fine balance between the impossible crime, the juggling of suspects and motives, Mr. Bryant’s flights of recondite erudition, the planting and decoding of clues and the obligatory plots to discredit and disband the PCU.