In every crime novelist, there must lurk moments of passion when the writer wants to be taken more seriously. Having seen how critics often fall all over themselves when novelists employ devices like building their stories around ideas from philosophy and quantum physics, the novelist must think, "I can do that, too!"
Why am I speculating in this way? Well, I cannot think of any other way to introduce The Old Wine Shades to You.
If you are old enough to remember a television series called "The Twilight Zone," you'll realize that this Richard Jury novel is a bit different from those that precede it in this distinguished series when I say the book reminds me of that series.
Richard Jury meets Harry Johnson, a well-dressed man in a wine bar that features the rarest and finest wines. Johnson begins to tell Jury a story. Jury is soon rapt and the conversation continues over dinner and more meetings in The Old Wine Shades and more dinners.
There's been a mysterious disappearance of a woman, her son and a dog. Although it's none of Jury's business, he soon finds himself checking out the story and wondering what's going on. The most puzzling part is that the dog came back. What does that mean?
Ms. Grimes deftly weaves layers of story on top of other layers of stories until it's difficult to keep track of who's telling what story about whom and what. It's masterfully conceived and executed . . . with one small problem from my point of view. Did she really have to add a dog that seems to share traits with some of Stephen King's menageries?
The book is clearly a tour de force for those who enjoy such displays of fictional éclat.
Although I enjoyed the story well enough, I couldn't help but hope that Richard Jury's future novels will move out of The Old Wine Shades into some agreeable pub where Melrose Plant can help move things along.