My rating: 4 of 5 stars
All the usual Martha Grimes ingredients are here: precocious and charming children; clever cats and dogs; quirky villages and villagers; memories of World War II; quaintly named pubs, of course; in London, Richard Jury, Wiggins, Cyril the Cat, Carole-Ann, and Mrs. Wasserman, and in Long Piddleton, Melrose Plant, Marshall Trueblood, Aunt Agatha, and all the other villagers we've come to know and expect. And, naturally, there is the typical convoluted Grimes plot that bobs and weaves and circles back on itself. In Grimes books, it is always the journey itself that is most satisfying; often, the conclusion is less so. That is the case with this book.
A friend of Jury's in the City of London police asks his assistance in solving a mystery. Some bones have recently been uncovered on the site of a pub, "The Blue Last," that was destroyed in the blitz during World War II. They are the bones of a woman and child. Ostensibly, they are the bones of the daughter of a wealthy family and a child who was the daughter of that family's nanny. Jury's friend, however, believes that the child was actually the daughter of the woman who died there. The nanny, who survived, he believes, substituted her own baby for the baby of the wealthy woman who died. That baby, now grown up, stands to inherit millions upon the death of the family patriarch.
An additional mystery is added to the plot when a man who is close to the family, and who is researching a book about the period in which the pub was destroyed, is murdered. Jury's policeman friend was also a friend of this family and he often visited the man who was murdered. Jury suspects that his murder was somehow related to the book that he was planning to write, but his manuscript and all his notes as well as his laptop were all taken at the time that he was killed. No one seems to know just what was in the book.
Adding even more confusion, the nine-year-old girl who is a ward of the family patriarch believes that someone is trying to kill her, and, indeed, there was a shot fired into the greenhouse while she was there. It's all a real muddle and there don't seem to be any obvious suspects.
Once again, Jury calls upon his friend Melrose Plant to go undercover to help with the investigation. This time he is to pose as the undergardener on the family's estate and gather information as to what's really going on with these people. As usual, Melrose has several scenes with the precocious child on the estate, as well as her friend and his dog, and, as usual, these scenes are a delight.
We also have a subplot with Marshall Trueblood, the Long Piddleton antiques dealer, who believes he may have an authentic Renaissance masterpiece, and persuades Melrose Plant to accompany him to Italy to consult experts who may be able to confirm the artwork's authenticity. Their trip is a lark worthy of Grimes.
One reads Grimes' novels for their settings and their characters and her use of language in describing them. The intricate plots are sometimes difficult to follow, and, as in The Blue Last, the endings are not always satisfying. But her characters have such winning personalities that one keeps coming back for the pleasure of interacting with them once again.
Overall, this was a fun read. I debated about whether I should award it three stars or four stars. In the end, I decided to be generous, even though the cliff-hanging ending truly left me hanging and unsatisfied. I guess I'll just have to read the next book in the series to find out what happened.
View all my reviews