My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After the disappointment of Dust, I found Martha Grimes to be a bit more back to form with this penultimate entry in her Richard Jury series. It had dogs and cats and children and the recurring characters that we've come to expect in the series. The plot was pretty well done and there were plenty of red herrings as well as foreshadowing of clues to send us toward the solution.
Moreover, in this one, the Long Piddleton contingent made only a very brief and mostly unannoying appearance. That was a plus.
On the other hand, there was a bit too much of the non-verbal communication between the dog, Mungo, and the cat, Morris (a female cat, by the way), as they tried to make the stupid humans see the truth. There were a few chapters that were seen through the eyes of the animals and which we spent inside their heads. Just a bit too precious, but Grimes really can't seem to control herself when it comes to her animal characters; they are always extremely intelligent and anthropomorphized.
The mystery here involves the murder of three beautiful women, all dressed to the nines in designer clothes and shoes. The first woman is killed in Chesham on the patio of a pub called The Black Cat. Subsequently, two more women are killed in a similar manner in London. It turns out that all three were leading double lives. They had their ordinary lives and jobs and then their second secret lives which involved jobs with escort services, although each one worked for a different service.
The police make the natural assumption that since all three worked for escort services, their deaths must somehow be connected to that work. But, at length, Superintendent Richard Jury begins to suspect that there may be something else in the women's background that connects them. He's unconvinced that this is the work of a serial killer and starts looking for another explanation.
Throughout the novel, there is a virtual plethora of black cats and red herrings. There are multiple references to old movies such as Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, and Now, Voyager and the reader begins to wonder, are these movies supposed to be a clue? Since Jury spends a lot of time on trains and does some of his best thinking on them, perhaps that narrows it down a bit. Hmm...I remember the plot of that movie - strangers meet on a train and agree to commit murder for each other. Could it be...? Has Grimes lifted her plot from the Hitchcock movie?
In addition to the main plot, there is a subplot involving Jury's paramour from the last book, the Inspector Lu Aguilar, who was knocked down and seriously injured by an automobile at the end of that book. We discover that she is paralyzed and will likely never walk again and, as the story progresses and Grimes doesn't appear to have any further use for her, she slips into a coma and doesn't seem to be long for this world.
Meanwhile, Jury, though feeling guilty about Aguilar, is apparently ready to resume his relationship with Dr. Phyllis Nancy, while simultaneously still being mesmerized by his upstairs neighbor, Carole-Anne. He just can't seem to resist those redheads.
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