British mysteries have commanded a sizeable section of my personal
library since the days of my first Agatha Christie. Their
fascination for me is undoubtedly the quaint village settings, the
picturesque countryside, and the delightful wit of the English
characters. For me, these writers have defined the term "cozy," for
I can't help but snuggle down in my favorite chair with a cup of
hot cocoa and lose myself in a good old-fashioned
Although Martha Grimes is not British, her Richard Jury series is
among the most popular of this genre. Her latest book, THE CASE HAS
ALTERED, reaffirms her talent for weaving an intriguing plot with
the charming features we've come to expect from a British mystery.
Aficionados of Grimes will recognize her characteristic use of the
English country inn in both title and setting. The dimly lit pub,
the crowded tables, and the murmurs of conversation are the perfect
staging for the occasional gathering of the cast of characters.
Humorous interludes or moments of soul searching are sprinkled
throughout to enlighten and delight.
In Richard Jury's latest case, we find the Scotland Yard Inspector
desperately attempting to uncover the secrets of the residents of
Fengate Estate and the surrounding locale. Though it is not his
jurisdiction, the prime suspect in the murders of two women is his
decade-long love interest, Jenny Kennington. The victims both have
a connection to Fengate. One was a servant, the other the infamous
ex-wife of the owner --- and the Lincolnshire police have their
case all wrapped up and ready for the prosecution.
In his quest for information, Jury summons his affluent friend,
Melrose Plant, to impersonate an antique dealer and ingratiate
himself with the Fengate residents. Melrose is admirably suited to
mingling and gossiping, but his sleuthing skills are typically
bumbling and outrageously funny. In alternating fashion,
Jury and Plant attempt to maneuver their way toward the truth. But
as thick as the mists that cover the fens, the shroud of deceit
renders a complexity of clues to keep the reader hopscotching from
suspect to suspect until the surprising conclusion.
Plant is just one of the familiar Grimes characters that pop in and
out of her story lines with welcome regularity. These colorful
personalities add a touch of hilarity that is a trademark of
Grimes's character-driven plots. For those unfamiliar with this
series, there may be some initial frustration due to the author's
assumption that you have met all of the cast in previous books.
However, all the "major" players are eventually developed with
respect to the roles they play, so first-time readers will not be
Reviewed by Ann Bruns (BkPageWC@aol.com) on January 21, 2011