Review

Belle Ruin

by Martha Grimes



Emma Graham, a precocious 12-year-old girl growing up in
mid-twentieth century, small-town America has been heartily adopted
by Martha Grimes fans old and new. Emma waits tables and serves the
quirky and crotchety elderly inhabitants of the crumbling but
sedate residence hotel owned by her mother. Emma's curiosity,
unmatched by any cat or fictional adolescent sleuth, has already
uncovered two separate murders in the first two books, HOTEL
PARADISE and COLD FLAT JUNCTION.


The notoriety from those adventures has turned Emma into a local
celebrity and landed her a job as a cub reporter at the local
newspaper, The Conservative. BELLE RUIN finds Emma with
writer's block while she tries to write a final chapter to the
series. She starts looking into past events that took place at
Belle Ruin, or more properly, Belle Rouen, an exclusive lakeside
resort hotel that burned to the ground during that mystery-laden
period 40 years in the past. Emma's browsing through the newspaper
morgue in search of story ideas discloses a mysteriously abandoned
case of an unresolved infant kidnapping. Naturally, Emma, with her
indefatigable nose for news, begins to dig and uncovers more buried
secrets of the small town's past.


Martha Grimes has populated the plot with a colorful cast of
characters that includes a garage mechanic, a taxi driver, her
alcoholically experimental Aunt Aurora, the blue-eyed sheriff on
whom Emma has a huge crush, the hated Ree-Jane, and the mysterious
disappearing girl from the previous novels. Emma's offbeat brother
Will and his talented pal Mill create a locally written and
produced version of "Medea," in which Emma is cast as Deux ex
Machina in perhaps the most abridged version ever brought to the
stage. Complete with a derivative musical score, the performances
become a standing-room only hit, adding comedic relief to this
slice of life coming-of-age tale. 


Emma's wry and often mature-for-her-age observations on human
nature belie her young years, but make for joyful reading. Grimes's
well-established reputation for depth and breadth of characters and
plot is evident in BELLE RUIN. Whether or not we can believe that
there is a 12-year-old girl, even in the halcyon years of the
mid-twentieth century, who is as bright, precocious and observant
as Emma is rather beside the point. The story is as full of life
and spice as Emma and should be welcomed by Grimes's legion of
readers.


   








Reviewed by Roz Shea on December 22, 2010

Belle Ruin
by Martha Grimes

  • Publication Date: August 18, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0670034614
  • ISBN-13: 9780670034611