Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery
In a striking homage to Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, 1958), Martha Grimes sends Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury and his entourage of friends on a spiraling mystery comprised of three deaths, separated by time and place. The book opens with Jury meeting an old friend, Tom Williamson, at a bar called Vertigo 42 in the business district of London. Tom is convinced that his wife, Tess, was murdered 17 years ago. He believed the investigators came to a quick conclusion about the circumstances surrounding Tess, who was awash in blood at the bottom of stone steps on his estate, Laburnum.
As he tries to get information from an old colleague who investigated the death, Jury realizes that five years before Tess died, another suspicious death occurred on the grounds of the estate. Tess loved giving parties for neighborhood children when "at one of these parties Hilda Palmer fell into one of the drained [concrete] pools." She was dead on the spot. No one saw anything because they were playing hide and seek. They went behind the manse even though they were warned not to, which resulted in tragedy.
"Those familiar with Grimes’s work and newcomers alike will find VERTIGO 42 to be a compelling and timely novel."
Now, 22 years later, Tom wants Jury to reopen the case because Tess was considered the murderer of this child. She never lived down the gossip and loss of stature in her community, which is why he wants new eyes to examine the murder from the beginning. He also would like Tess's death to be re-examined because some police felt that she had an attack of vertigo from which she suffered. Over drinks, Tom comes out and asks Jury, "Want to have a word with Commander Macalvie?" Jury shrinks from this request and explains that he cannot interfere with the current man in charge.
But, of course, in keeping with the twists and turns of a Martha Grimes story, Jury is soon on the case. Tom thinks he may need a lawyer because he'd be the prime suspect in his very wealthy wife's death, despite the passage of time. Then another woman dressed in a red dress wearing Jimmy Choo stiletto heels is found dead near the same staircase, which does seem like murder from the outset. "The game's afoot," and Jury is on the case. His wit and stalwart devotion to the job will please any fan. He does bring in "Lord" Ardery, and a dog enters the scene after another murder is committed, this time in London. The narrative is in great hands with Grimes at the helm.
In a stroke of brilliance, the author makes allusions to great literature. From Charlotte Bronte's JANE EYRE to Proust, from Joseph Conrad to Thomas Hardy's TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES and JUDE THE OBSCURE, she uses such literary classics to make her points. Readers will find themselves reveling in the current story and delighted to see how she uses these books. Those familiar with Grimes’s work and newcomers alike will find VERTIGO 42 to be a compelling and timely novel.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on June 6, 2014