My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Having just finished Middlemarch, I felt the need for a short, light, quick read to give myself a change of pace. Well, Martha Grimes' Richard Jury mysteries usually fill that bill and I've been slowly reading my way through them, so I decided to pick up the next one in the series, I Am the Only Running Footman. It was indeed a quick read, but that's just about the only praise I can give it.
What was the woman thinking? Her writing is usually pretty crisp and flows smoothly, but this book, published in 1986, was confused and disjointed in its plotting. I had a hard time maintaining interest and it was a struggle just to finish it. If it hadn't been so short, perhaps I wouldn't have. Really, the book had the feeling of having been cobbled together with leftover ideas from other plots and they didn't hang together very well at all.
This book again features Macalvie, the obsessive but brilliant policeman who was introduced in the last book. He's an attractive character, but I don't know why Grimes stuck him in this story because she barely used him.
The same might be said of Melrose Plant, Superintendent Richard Jury's friend from the provinces who frequently assists the police with their inquiries. He's present but hardly heard from.
We do hear quite a lot from Sgt. Wiggins who, in spite of his annoying hypochondria, is presented as an invaluable assistant to Jury and an empathetic interviewer for crime victims and their families.
The mystery here involves the murder of two women. The first one was killed on Macalvie's patch and he was unable to solve the crime which rankles him. Almost a year later, another young woman is killed in a similar manner in Mayfair and Jury is assigned to that case. Soon the two cases are melded and Jury starts looking for connections between the two victims.
He eventually finds a possible link to a very close-knit family, a member of whom had been involved romantically with the Mayfair victim. That person has an alibi, though it seems a bit flimsy. But what could be the motive? The key to the mystery lies in the family's tragic past, but will Jury ever be able to make the connections?
On the list of things that annoyed me about this book, number one is the abrupt ending. Jury finally has one of his patented epiphanies and supposedly figures the whole thing out, but I read the ending twice and I'm still not sure what happened or which of two characters was the perpetrator. Moreover, I did not see any real clues sprinkled throughout the narrative and that's just not playing fair. Oh, for the days, when Hercule Poirot gathered everyone together in the library and laid it all out for us, step by step, leaving no confusion.
I won't give up on this series. Yet. I do like the characters of Jury and Wiggins, and especially Cyril the cat who inhabits the offices of Jury's superior, to his enormous irritation. But I'm going to take a break from it for awhile and I certainly hope Grimes picks up her game with the next entry.
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