A Graph Review: 40 ending at highpoint 55
(0= dont bother: 100=best ever)
by Martha Grimes, a Headline paperback published 1987
Odd title, had to buy it at a boot-fair (sorry bookshops!) and found it to be one of a series by an American author who, as an English professor spent time between England and America. From the inside cover it is one of seven but on outside cover it is one of ten titles so I appear to have started in the middle of a series…. though you cant tell if they are actually the same characters just from the listing.
Quite soon into the book I found the main detective got re-aquainted with another and they had appeared together in books before. I assume in their own individual books too, quite a nice little idea. Then a third fellow popped up as ditto, Although these two’s presence was limited it was ‘natural’ and their contribution was useful. For much of the book I felt the main characters were a little, shall we say, under-described. I assume they had been given more depth in previous appearances so I had to play catch-up. As a new reader meeting them for the first time I initially felt like an outsider, probably not intended but it felt slightly odd. Hints of character did come through, though mostly brief comments on previous times I knew nothing about. A nice touch to Richard Jury’s life pops up near the end of the story but I would have liked a little more earlier. This may be a sign of current times rather than when Martha Grimes wrote.
Two crimes, two crime scenes, two detectives and a cast of several differing families building into the story. Diverse conections of dissolute aristocrats, moneyed family and working-class wanting more for themselves and numerous add-ons, all pertinent to the plot. Everyone nearly a stereotype maybe but with tones of shading that added veins to their casting and conviction.
Richard Jury, main man, had something of Dickensian versus Fawlty Towers encounters in some hotel scenes which might have been deliberate or just an accidental over the top enthusiasm from the author. Quite acceptable, as humour is not easy to be subtle with and I did have the odd quirky experience in 80s hotels; so here we have it just a little magnified. And anyway the author got it pretty spot on even if it stuck out like a red nose.
The book settled into a rhythm, or maybe it was me. As the plot complicated the characters became more realistic and some darkness came through. Earlier descriptions and behaviour become clearer as the reader neared the final sections and the climax sneakily crept up to an explosive finish.
Scenes cover London and Exeter, Sussex and Brighton with nice descriptions of Brighton especially, that triggered memories for their accuracy of the period. Will I read more? Yes, I will happily pick up the trail of Jury and Macalvie but will try starting near the beginning of their careers.
Where do they stand in my view of the world? With the likes of Gideon and Inspector West most likely. Quite readable and interesting for the period but not a classic to quote.