Thu 6 Mar 2014
Reviews by L. J. Roberts
CHRISTOPHER FOWLER – The Memory of Blood. Bantam,US, hardcover, March, 2012; softcover, September 2013. (Police procedural: Bryant & May, 9th in series.)
First Sentence: The following undated document appeared on Wikileaks and is now the subject of a government investigation.
During the cast party, someone has murdered the theater owner’s infant son. The bedroom is locked from the inside and neither blood nor fingerprints are found; only the life-sized puppet of Mr. Punch, lying on the floor.
A cast of characters is always helpful, but usually not very inventive. From Page One, it is clear this will not be your usual read with your usual characters and each is fully developed and fascinating. They are not necessary all people you’d want to know, but each becomes real in your mind. The Peculiar Crimes Unit team, including their long-suffering superior Raymond Lamb, is colorful and imaginative.
You are immediately caught up in the author’s voice; his observations of the English and the wonderful wry humor… “People described Salterton as ageless in a way that wasn’t intended as a compliment. He seemed to exist somewhere between post-menopause and post-mortem.” Throughout, the author punctuates the story with simple statements of truth… “The gap between rich and poor was not just one of wealth but of accountability.”
His use of language is to be savored… “This, then, was Arthur Bryant at work, his furrowed forehead bowed beneath the yellow light of the desk lamp, a shambling Prospero residing over the desiccated pages of his literary arcane, stirring fresh knowledge into the heady stew of ideas that filled his brain.” The dialogue is excellent with some of the exchanges between Bryant and May left to flow unhampered by interruptions of so-and-so said.
The crime itself is anything but ordinary. It is, at times, gruesome. It is also a wonderful entry into the behind scenes working of a theater and the history of Punch and Judy. Fowler is particularly good in teaching the reader about things you didn’t even know you wanted to know.
The Memory of Blood is a very good book, filled with humor, imagination, suspense, and wonderful characters. I am very happy to say there are, as of now, two more books after this … and eight wonderful books before it.
Rating: Very Good.