The Black Cat (Richard Jury Mysteries (Paperback)) Paperback – 1 Feb 2011
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About the Author
Martha Grimes is the bestselling author of eighteen Richard Jury mysteries and also the acclaimed fiction Foul Matter, Cold Flat Junction, Hotel Paradise, The End of the Pier, and The Train Now Departing.
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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.
The series has always been quirky, interesting and informative; the last few books spending quite a lot of time on subjects like quantum mechanics and (in this one) the novels of Henry James. Many of the characters carry on right through the series and she has a plethora of undeniably cute dogs, cats and children, many of the latter one would really not wish to meet in real life.
The early books had some rather wild British geographical and other bloopers but lately my only gripe, and it applies to this one, is the language. I can take the Americanisms in the narrative, even the ubiquitous and ever jarring 'gotten', but dialogue should be right and she puts some words in the mouths of British people that they would never utter. No Englishman, for one example, would call a car exhaust a 'muffler'.
Minor quibbles aside I thoroughly enjoyed The Black Cat, and the rest of the series.
Jury, who pines for a cigarette frequently through these pages as he has "for the thousandth heartbreaking time in three years," and is described as a "high-ranking detective with the Metropolitan police, but without much feeling for rank, and who'd climbed the ladder without much feeling for the rungs," remains thoroughly endearing, as do his mates, among them the debonair Melrose Plant, Lord Ardrey, if you please; Harry Johnson, nominally his nemesis but with whom he shares a decidedly ambivalent relationship; and Dr. Phyllis Nancy, his good friend-cum-paramour. In addition to all the running characters in the series, the author creates tiny little portraits of incidental characters, bringing them to perfect life. A familiarity with the earlier books in the series will be helpful to the reader, as there are several references to prior events, but is not at all necessary to a thorough enjoyment of the novel.
Other murders occur, but in London, nowhere near Chesham, and the feeling persists that the murders are both connected and not connected. It takes the persistence and brainpower of both the human and non-human characters to figure out just what that means, taking the reader swiftly to the unexpected ending. The book is, at the very least, a tutorial in designer footwear, filled with delightful humor and charming prose, and is recommended.
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