Fowler, Christopher - 'Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood'
BRYANT & MAY AND THE MEMORY OF BLOOD is the ninth book about Arthur Bryant, John May and their Peculiar Crimes Unit of the Metropolitan Police.
BRYANT & MAY AND THE MEMORY OF BLOOD begins with some scene setting chapters to settle new readers in before the first murder occurs - Robert Kramer, ruthless property developer turned theatre impresario, is throwing a party in his new penthouse just off Trafalgar Square (London is effectively a character in the Bryant & May novels and undoubtedly Christopher Fowler is strong on characterisation). The air at the party is uncomfortable and full of foreboding and when Kramer's young wife checks on their baby boy, she finds the nursery door locked from the inside. When the door is broken open, the Kramers are faced with an open window, an empty cot, and a grotesque antique puppet of Mr Punch lying on the floor.
This is another strong Bryant & May novel from Christopher Fowler with the usual intricate plot, full of both twists and turns and strong characters who are nine-tenths believable and one-tenth fantastical.
For the benefit of new readers, the author does include a short briefing report on the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit and the history of the unit at the start of the novel but other reviews I have seen by newcomers to the series suggest that this (perhaps more than others) can be enjoyed without having read the rest of the series.
One question that might occur to the prospective reader is how Christopher Fowler compares in an increasingly crowded field of fantasy detective stories such as Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels and Ben Aaronovitch's Grant and Nightingale novels (also working for the Metropolitan Police in the Economic and Specialist Crime Unit). The answer, I think, is still very well.
This is a not a new field with fantasy having been mixed with private eyes (e.g. Tanya Huff's Vicki Nelson, Mike Resnick's John Justin Mallory and Malcolm Price's Louie Knight) and police procedurals (e.g. Terry Pratchett's Samuel Vimes) in recent years whilst the notion of occult detectives has been around since the late nineteenth century such as with William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki, the Ghost Finder from 1910 onwards.
Bryant, May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit will return in BRYANT & MAY AND THE INVISIBLE CODE which the author describes as having "a plot that operates both as a single case, but completes an arc that has been continuing for the last four books, taking it to a new point in the story". My preorder is already in for holiday reading next summer.
Mark Bailey, Northern Ireland