Fowler mystery ‘peculiar’

THE MEMORY OF BLOOD. By Christopher Fowler. Bantam Books. 333 pages. $25.

Just by looking at the artwork on the cover of “The Memory of Blood,” you’d expect this Peculiar Crimes Unit case to be, well, peculiar.

Christopher Fowler’s ninth book in the London-based series does have its odd elements and its usual offbeat characters, but it’s also just a darn good mystery.

This case begins with the death of an 11-month-old boy, whose body is then thrown out a sixth-floor window, apparently by a large puppet, yes, a puppet, Mr. Punch.

The door to the boy’s room is locked, and there’s no way to get in or out. It’s a puzzle for senior detectives Arthur Bryant and John May.

The Punch and Judy characters factor in to subsequent deaths, and their history plays a large role in this story.

Though “Memory” includes a fairly good tutorial on the subject, it certainly would make for a more enjoyable read if you’re familiar with the puppet show.

It also adds something to the experience if you’re already acquainted with the members of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit.

Although these books don’t have to be read in order to follow along, there are several character-related issues that new readers won’t really get.

And there’s a second murder mystery in “Memory,” one with its roots in Bryant’s past.

Bryant, May and the rest of the PCU manage to tie up the puppet killings, but if readers want a satisfactory conclusion in the separate murder case, be prepared to get the next book in the series, too.

Reviewer Carol Edwards, a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County