I first came by the Bryant and May series when I read London's Glory, which was a collection of short stories starring the duo. I enjoyed it enough that I looked for more books, and since the NLB didn't have book 1, decided to read Book 9.
The Memory of Blood is a series of murders that involve Punch and Judy. I've never seen that puppet show, but it sounds quite scary. The murders start with the murder of baby Kramer, during a party for the start of a play. The baby was strangled and then thrown off a building, but the strange thing is that it seems like the Punch doll (who apparently starts the show by killing his baby) did it. As Bryan and May and the rest of the Peculiar Crimes Unit investigate, more and more people start to die, accompanied by dolls.
The star of the show is clearly Arthur Bryant. He's a cantankerous, strange old man who verges on caricature at times. But he is balanced out by his partner, John May, who smoothes out his rough edges. The two of them definitely make an endearing pair.
The mystery had many twists and turns, and it seems like Bryant is the one that holds all the cards. The rest of the unit is doing proper police legwork, but it's Bryant's haphazard method that gets to the bottom of the case.
Apart from the main mystery, there's a subplot about Bryant's memoirs, which contain information that violates the Official Secrets Act. And since his editor just turned up dead, it's clear that someone wants to stop Bryant from releasing his memoirs. This mystery isn't really resolved at the end, and it made me want to read more.
It's kind of disappointing that the NLB has books 9 and 11 but not book 10. The mystery sounds equally interesting, but I wonder how the subplot would have progressed. Still, I may just bite the bullet and skip a book.
If you're looking for a mystery chock full of eccentric characters and odd deaths, you'll enjoy this. I also enjoyed the bits of information about Punch and Judy sprinkled throughout the book, and I wish there was a reading list attached.