2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Grimes continues her web of Jury excitement!,
This review is from: The Blue Last (Paperback)
He's back! And, if you'll pardon the pun, with a bang! Richard Jury, the mainstay
character of Martha Grimes' immensely successful British police procedural series (the titles are all
names of actual pubs) centralizes the action in her latest, "The Blue Last," in what will surely
quieten critics of her last Jury ("The Lamorna Wink") as having too little Jury (he'd been sent to
North Ireland for investigations and other characters conducted this investigation!).
No matter. Grimes produces one of her best with "The Blue Last"!
In 1939, during a bombing blitz by the Germans, the Blue Last, a pub owned by the
Tynedale Brewing Company, is destroyed and in it, the daughter of the Tynedale family. By sheer
luck (coincidence?), the family nanny had only moments before taken the daughter's baby girl,
Maisie, out of the pub for some fresh air, leaving her own baby, of the same age, in the pub, and thus
to her own doom as well. Enter DCI Mickey Haggarty of the London police, who, almost 60 years
later, has reason to suspect that, actually, the babies' identities had been switched and the heiress to
the Tynedale fortune is actually the nanny's own daughter! Haggarty calls in his longtime friend
Jury to assist. Judy is skeptical. However, Haggarty reveals that he is dying of terminal cancer,
with only a few weeks to live and Jury cannot refuse.
However, enter Murder One, in Haggarty's own patch, yet, coincidentally, the victim,
Simon Croft, is a close friend of the Tynedale family, who's been writing a book of the London war
years. The book has disappeared. Was it because he was about to expose a scandal in the Tynedale
family as well? Thus, now the two cases are inextricably intertwined. And with these basic
premises, Grimes is off for the chase.
And "The Blue Last" is vintage Grimes. Jury is clearly in command of the investigation
and of the book and Grimes seems comfortable in letting Scotland Yard take charge. But the book is not simply about investigating a murder. All the Long Pidd characters come forging to the front,
too, as Grimes delights in "shaking them from the branches." It's Christmas, with its collateral
imagary, atmosphere, and tone, which the reader readily picks up. Grimes takes a detour for a
couple of chapters as she stops the Jury deliberation of his own investigation to permit Melrose Plant
and Marshall Trueblook to make a quick trip to Florence to authenticate what Trueblood hopes is a genuine Masaccio polyptych, which he'd bought for a steal at a local antiques shop. It's an excellent breather, as it were, a genuine bit of comic relief (actually it's difficult to find characters more
comical than the Long Pidd crowd, as readers of this series know full well!). And she offers some
good art history lessons as well!
Noteworthy, too, is that the author has taken the time to answer
many questions about her characters, especially Jury, himself a survivor of the London Blitz (his
mother was killed during a bombing raid and his father died in action as an RAF pilot). There are
few questions about him that can be asked. Certainly, Grimes seems to feel she's answered them all.
She also seems to make this one even more personal to her own nature.
A complex man, an ideal protagonist for any novel, Jury is a man who refuses to compromise his
well-founded principles, yet compassion, understanding, and sympathy for all those who deserve it
are within his character range. Coupled with these descriptives, Grimes adds her other memorable
characters, all with their own expanse of complexity and depth.
All the accolades aside, some readers may find the ending a bit unsettling; indeed, it's a strong
ending for a Jury novel. Yet, to the alert reader, Grimes is fully in charge and the ending is in
keeping with the rest of the book, no more, no less. And one's reaction to the ending, of course,
should not be the soul arbiter of the book's effectiveness. Grimes knows what she's doing. And her
fans will realize this, of course.
"Not to be missed" just about sums it up. As Will Rogers might have said, "I never read a Grimes I
didn't like." "The Blue Last" holds its own, clearly, in the pantheon of the other 16 Jury books!