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Richard Jury returns with a bang!
on 12 April 2010
Martha Grimes is back. Yes, THE Martha Grimes! In her latest Richard Jury mystery, The Black Cat, we find Ms Grimes returning to what she's done best and what made her famous--the clever, witty, and intriguing story lines, giving her characters a chance to carry the story, full force and full stop.
This is Richard Jury's 22nd installment and what a winner this one is. A murder mystery? You bet. And early on Jury finds himself involved in not one but three murders--and are they related? Of course they are, as the reader (and Jury) knows early on. All three deaths of of women of the evening, or rather, professional escorts. What is the connecting link? And, of course, "who done it"? "The Black Cat" becomes "the black cats," as Grimes incorporates Morris, a black cat indeed, and brings back the dog Mungo (from earlier books), which provides a clever--and interesting--sidebar story, although they figure prominently in the case's solution. Grimes also gives us a good lesson in high fashion, from Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin shoes to Yves St. Laurent dresses--yes, these escorts are "high end."
Again, Jury with an admirable cast of old friends and new ones gets to work, putting the pieces (and clues) together. Grimes has left (we hope for good) Jury's "romantic episodes" (please--just get on with solving the crime, Richard, we're not interested in your sex life!) and reverted to earlier venues: exciting literary allusions (they're chockablock full here!), intelligent and worthwhile examples of quality comic relief (Grimes can't and shouldn't forget about Melrose Plant, once again coming to the rescue as a supporting cast member); Grimes leaves out Aunt Agatha (okay!) and doesn't spend much time with the Long Pid group of friends (again, okay). And only a perfunctory reference to Superintendent Racer and the office cat.
Another trademark of Grimes seems to be the precocious 11-year-old girl character (this one never changes, only the name does), which adds a bit of sass. And Jury is still caught up with the "un-solved" case with Harry Johnson, going back a couple of books. "You won't let that go, will you," Harry asks Jury at their favorite wine bar, The Old Wine Shades.
The plotline is plausible and Grimes is in total control, no actual red herrings and no O. Henry or Agatha Christie "surprise" endings, although her conclusions are not always easy to figure out. Reading "The Black Cat" was such a refreshing, enjoyable time--well, done, Ms Grimes!
As readers know, the Jury books are all titled after the names of actual pubs/bars, and it's been a personal delight actually to pay those in London a visit.