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The Memory of Blood
A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery, No 9
Christopher Fowler

March 27, 2012 / ISBN: 0345528638
British / Detective / Mystery and Thrillers [Review 2]

Reviewed by Beth E. McKenzie

This mystery rests on the juxtaposition of differences: the past and present, comedy and tragedy. For example the opening Wiki-leaks document reporting on a covert Churchill-era organization, the Grand Guignol on the stage of a swanky West End theater, children at the beach laughing when Mr. Punch throws the baby out the window and a mother crying in her room when her own child is apparently a victim of Mr. Punch’s rage.

It is not often that I read a book that I would call a thriller. Generally books billed as thrillers are just violent or graphic causing a sense of revulsion instead of fear or anticipation. Interplays like the following sent my blood chilling up my spine:

“Despite Banbury’s look of horror, Bryant raised the figure high and wiggled it. The puppet’s movements were unnervingly realistic. ‘After all, what’s one of the first things Mr. Punch does in the play?

Renfield and May looked at each other.

‘He throws the baby out the window,’ replied Bryant.”

Next Mr. Punch usually beats his wife to death, fights with the police or a number of other victims he murders and then tricks the hangman into putting his own head in the noose. Through it all he is delighted that his world is being set right, “That's the way to do it!”

Not every book has to teach me something, but I am delighted when one does. I particularly enjoyed the history lesson about puppetry and the grim theatre. I enjoyed the way Bryan’s mind made connections with him being as pleased as Punch to investigate the pathways he thought important in spite of sabotage from within, budgets and modern procedures. He’s not just getting old, he’s a puppet in a traditional role raging at the change in scenery and lines, but still clever enough that he always tricks the hangman.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Full Dark House #1
The Water Room #2
The Memory of Blood # 9 [review1] [review 2] [review 3]
Invisible Code #10 [review 1] [review 2]

Reviewed 2012