Having read several of the Richard Jury novels years ago, I remembered why I stopped reading them when I started this one - chosen solely because I'm an English reader travelling to Santa Fe for the first time soon. The chronological background of the book is ridiculous. It was written in the 1990's and is meant to be a contemporary setting, yet doesn't even remotely resemble the England I've lived in for the past 50 years. For example, there haven't been sweet shops such as the one she describes since the 1930's. Richard Jury was supposedly a schoolboy during World War II, a fact made much of during the story. Even in the mid-1990's he'd be knocking on towards 60. The English part of the story is people with aristos and the gentility who mock the `ways' of the common folk, views which the reader seems to be expected to share. If it's meant as parody, it singularly fails to convince. If the book had been set in the 1920's the attitudes towards class of its characters might be more believable. Indeed, many of the 'characters' are merely ludicrous caricatures - e.g. the 'loveable'(read *very* sub-Dickensian, & wouldn't be out of place in a poor Dicken's knock-off 150 years ago) cockney-rogue family with a baby named Robespierre are deeply irritating, and their antics farcical. Perhaps the book - and this is true of the other Grimes crime I have read - is aiming for the surreal, but all it arouses in this reader is perplexity and irritation. Frankly, to portray England as like this in the 1990's is silly. I don't read mysteries for the realism or the social analysis, I read to escape, but if the writer wants me to suspend disbelief she had better make a *bit* more of an effort not to get her setting so wildly incorrect. The book also features two child-characters, one carried over from a previous book, both annoying rather than endearing or intriguing, which was apparently the intention. I couldn't wait to finish it, and I mean that in the worst possible way. Oh - the plot. The solution to the crime was obvious well before the end - and well before Richard Jury eventually tumbled to it - and it wasn't very original or clever, either, despite all the attempts at befuzzlement and mystification. This book and series, though purportedly set in the UK, is certainly not meant for anyone who knows anything about us!
This is only the second book I have read by Grimes, but I am hooked enough to want to read more. The action of the book takes place in Britain and in the American South-west; the characters are already familiar, old friends from the first book I read. Grimes' characters are memorable and well-portrayed, her plots are good enough to make you want to keep guessing and not skip to the end. Her description of a dysfunctional British family is horribly funny. But - and there has to be a but - is she playing with us, the readers, or is she more naive than she should be? The blurbs say her books are accurate and well-researched, but the England she writes about, supposedly of the eighties and nineties, has not existed since the fifties, and then only in country house plays and novels. If her main character, Richard Jury, really remembers being a child in WWII, then shouldn't he have drawn a pension by now and retired gracefully from Scotland Yard, let alone from the yearning pursuit of aristocratic ladies? It's many years since British policemen wore black mackintoshes and drove black police cars, and there are very few shops left of the quaintly old-fashioned type she describes.Anachronisms abound -maybe this is intentional, having fun with the reader. Reading Martha Grimes books, however, is fun, and who could, or should, ask for more?