Wednesday, October 30, 2013

THE MEMORY OF BLOOD by Christopher Fowler

It's the opening-night cast party for "The Two Murderers," a gruesome new play on the London stage, and it's at the ritzy penthouse of producer Robert Kramer. Of course, there's all the usual conflicts and rivalries in the company. But things take a gruesome turn when Kramer's infant child is thrown out the window of the locked nursery...and seemingly done by a life-sized Punch figure.

Naturally, given the big names involved and the bizarre nature of the crime, detectives Bryant & May, and the rest of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are on the case. And it leads them into all sorts of theatrical bizzarerie, including Punch and Judy shows and the Grand Guignol. Also, a young lady helping Bryant on his memoirs dies suddenly and strangely; was it an accident or murder? Is it associated or not?

I have to admit...I started reading this, then had to put it aside for a while. I didn't like the murder of a baby. I've read novels that have the murders of children and sometimes it's done for sheer lurid shock value. But, after a break, I made myself pick it back up and finish it. And I have to say...the murder of the child makes sense. Not only is it a reference to Punch and Judy shows (which does figure in the plot and you'll learn a bit from reading this), but it also makes sense in the murderer's plot. So even though it may strike some as distasteful, it serves a purpose.

And there's further murders, mostly following in the classic theatrical madman fashion. And the deepening mystery around a young transcriber's death. And more looks into some byways of English history and culture, like a visit to Brighton and a horror sculptor's studio.

Despite my initial distaste for the story, I ended up enjoying this a great deal. I did get a chill down my spine at hints that the next book would be the last in the series. In this book several simmering subplots near resolution, and there's even a passing reference to going out with a bang. Eeep.

So yeah, this is on the Required Reading shelf, with the rest of the Bryant & May series. And the next one is waiting in the wings.

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