is more delicious on a blustery winter evening than curling into a
comfy chair with the latest Martha Grimes mystery? An avid reader
of mysteries, but new to Grimes, asked me if she writes "cozies."
One could be lulled into thinking so as they settle into the warm,
friendly atmosphere of the legendary pubs that are central to each
Richard Jury whodunit. Especially when the regular cast of
characters emerges on the scene as the story moves from the
inevitable murder to New Scotland Yard Superintendent Jury's circle
of friends and colleagues.
But Grimes soon weaves the motives and methods of the latest victim
and perpetrator into a tapestry that introduces us to events that
pique our curiosity.
Billy Maples, a wealthy young art patron, is shot in cold blood on
the balcony of a seedy hotel in the gentrifying North London
Clerkenwell neighborhood of galleries, hotels and pubs. Why he is
staying in the hotel or what possible motive anyone would have for
killing the charming young man mystifies his close friends and
The First Great War is never forgotten by those who experienced it,
and the sins of the fathers woefully can be visited on its sons and
daughters. Billy is the grandson of a decorated World War II code
breaker, Sir Oswald Maples, a friend of Superintendent Jury's. As
the story unfolds, so does the history of the German
kindertransport, the train of children fleeing pre-war
Germany and the doomed City of Benares children's ship,
torpedoed enroute from England to Canada in the early years of the
Much of the action moves to the coastal town of Rye and the
historic home of novelist Henry James, now under the protection of
England's National Trust. The murder victim held a residency in the
home, which is now a museum, and spent much of his time there with
his companion and assistant, Kurt Brunner. Jury's comrade in arms,
the venerable Lord Arbry, finds himself ensconced in the Henry
James House, where he is instrumental in unraveling the threads of
Meanwhile, Superintendent Jury encounters Lu Aguilar, the seductive
chief of detectives in the Islington Police district where the
murder takes place. In a most un-Grimes-like fashion, Richard and
the sultry and beautiful Lu embark on a tempestuous love affair
that surprises Jury almost as much as it must the reader.
Nonetheless, it proves that Jury is far from over the hill while
testing his feelings for New Scotland Yard's equally alluring
coroner and sometime girlfriend, Dr. Phyllis Nancy.
As Harry Johnson, the psychopathic murder suspect from THE OLD WINE
SHADES, helped us explore quantum physics through the principles of
Schrodenger's cat, so do Henry James's ghostly tales lead us to
explore the duplicities of human nature. Harry Johnson and
his insightful dog Mungo are back to help Jury sort out the
details, leading us through a long winter's night thriller that
keeps the pages flying.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 21, 2011