The Memory of Blood is latest, and probably one of the last, of the Peculiar Crimes Unit series. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is a special branch of London’s police department, in operation since WWII. The Unit originally specialized in cases pertaining to national security. However, over the years, the Unit began to take on the weird and esoteric cases occurring in the city. The Unit technically has a supervisor, but the two real forces behind it are Arthur Bryant and John May. Bryant is…hard to describe; I always picture him as one of the trash people from Labyrinth. If you read the series, you’ll see that it fits. He rarely ventures into reality and instead tries to piece together cases by examining London’s past. May is the more professional one, although he occasionally gets too emotionally involved in the people he’s investigating. There a few more officers in the Unit, but the only other one worth mentioning is Janice Longbright, a sort of Joan from Mad Men and Buffy the Vampire Slayer hybrid. She’s one of my favs.
One thing to keep in mind about the Peculiar Crime Unit series is that Fowler relies heavily on London history. The Memory of Blood is no exception. The book begins with the party for a theater group. The theater owner, who models his life philosophy on Mr. Punch from the Punch & Judy puppet plays, is universally despised. Half way through the party, someone throw his newborn baby out the window. Yes, a baby gets chucked out the window. Soon the murders seem to revolve about the characters in the old Punch & Judy plays. (About halfway through the book I had to take a Wikipedia detour because Punch & Judy doesn’t seem like something my parents would’ve ever let me see as a child.) There’s a climatic big reveal, at the 11th hour, with the fate of the Unit riding on the successful arrest, which is pretty much how all of these books end. However, this one gets my personal stamp of approval because didn’t figure out the murdered until the reveal, which is usually the case in this series, which is another reason this series has a special place on my bookshelf.
I did mention that this may be one of the last in the series. Fowler makes mention in the Acknowledgement section at the beginning that he has been trying to kill off the two main characters for a while now. Also, as I mentioned before, the Unit is permanently in a state of possible foreclosure. The subplot in The Memory of Blood wasn’t neatly wrapped up in the end, ensuring that the next book with be The Unit vs. The Unit’s Detractors in the British government. On the one hand, I hate when a writer gets brunt out on their own. But I also ahte it when a good mystery series ends.