My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is one of those books that I could have easily read in one sitting if I didn't have anything else to do because it was just hard to put down once I got into it. But since I do have other things to do, it actually took me a couple of days. Two very pleasant days of reading.
Once again his boss sends Richard Jury off into the English countryside to solve a murder. This time it is in the tiny village of Littlebourne where a severed finger had recently been found. The finger pointed (pun intended) local constables to a boggy footpath where the corpse it had come from was found by a bird watcher out looking for a rare bird.
The murdered woman was a stranger to the village. It developed that she had probably come there for a job interview, but what was she doing on that footpath and why would anyone in the village want to kill her? Or was the deed done by some nefarious stranger?
Littlebourne, it turns out, is your typically wacky English village with eccentric denizens galore, all of whom we meet in the course of Jury's investigation. But strange things were happening in this village even before the murder. The year before had seen the theft of an extremely valuable emerald from one of the local gentry. Later, the owner of the emerald had died, leaving his widow essentially destitute and needing to sell their mansion to move on to something more manageable. The man suspected of the theft was himself killed in a road accident, but the emerald was never found.
Meanwhile, more recently, a young woman from the village had been attacked while she was in London for her violin lesson. She was left in a coma and is in the hospital, having not yet regained consciousness. Jury soon becomes convinced that all of these incidents are somehow related if he can only find the key. And if he can find that key, he can identify the murderer.
Aiding him in his search is the estimable if hypochondriacal D.S. Wiggins that we met in the first two entries in this series, as well as Jury's friend Melrose Plant who has become an amateur detective of sorts, one who enjoys assisting the police in their inquiries.
Richard Jury forms the opinion that the answer to the puzzle may actually lie in London and, returning there, he searches out a pub called the Anodyne Necklace where a game called "Wizards" is played. The game is played with a specially drawn treasure map and it seems that such a map may be instrumental in solving the murder.
But before the one murder can be solved, another one is committed in the village. It appears that a real crime wave has hit the sleepy little place and there are plenty of nasty people about who look suspicious.
As in the last book, The Old Fox Deceiv'd, Littlebourne has a charming and precocious child who figures in the plot. This time it is a nine-year-old horse-loving girl, Emily Louise Perk, and she seems to have the village pretty much under her thumb. (She actually reminded me somewhat of Alan Bradley's creation, Flavia de Luce, and I had to wonder if Bradley was possibly inspired by Grimes' child character.)
Of course, in the end, Jury, along with his "posse" of Wiggins, Plant, and Emily, manages to find the solution to the mysteries that surround Littlebourne and he wraps it all up in a neat little bow. But I'm sure his boss, who is always looking for an excuse to get him out of London, will soon find another quirky little village that is experiencing a crime wave and we've be off on another reading adventure.
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