My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Well, in a very, very long series such as Martha Grimes' Richard Jury, I guess we can't expect every entry to be a winner. This one was a bit of a letdown, which actually surprised me because it started out as if it would be very entertaining, but somewhere around the two-thirds mark, it seemed to lose its way and the last third really meandered around trying to find that way once again. But it never did. In the end, I would award it two-and-a-half stars, but since I can't do a half-star here, I'll be generous and make it three.
The story briefly is this: Richard Jury is finally getting some well-deserved vacation time. He plans to spend it in the little village of Long Piddleton with his good friend, the fabulously wealthy Melrose Plant. Things look promising as he arrives in town and we get to meet all the Long Piddleton characters we've come to know in earlier books, including the extremely obnoxious and clueless Aunt Agatha, Melrose's aunt, who is suing the local butcher over an accident that she herself caused.
Of course, we strongly suspect from the beginning that Jury's vacation plans will be interrupted by murder and so it happens, in a most unexpected way.
The local antique dealer, Marshall Trueblood, is proudly showing Jury and Plant one of his recent acquisitions, a secretary's desk. When he opens up the desk for their inspection, they discover a dead body.
The dead man is the nephew by marriage of a local extremely wealthy woman. His marriage to the woman's niece was troubled, to say the least, by his constant and varied infidelities. There seems to be a countless number of both local and London women with whom he had affairs. Did one of them kill him? Did the wife finally get fed up and decide to put a permanent end to it all? Would that the solution were that simple!
Jury, of course, as the Scotland Yard man on scene, is expected to head up the investigation, even though that is resented by the local coppers. At length, he makes a connection between the Long Piddleton murder and the murder of a woman called Sadie Diver in London. But is she really Sadie Diver or is she actually the wife of the man who was killed? Is the grieving widow in Long Piddleton actually an imposter? It all gets very complicated and this is where the plot began to lose some steam and some of my interest. It was all so convoluted that I just couldn't keep it straight and I found that even the ending did not really explain things and it left me with more questions than answers. Sigh.
I enjoy this series so much that it's a real disappointment to read an entry where the plot and the characters don't scintillate. Plus, there were things about the writing that annoyed me. For example, the body in the secretary's desk was murdered by being stabbed. There was blood spilled. When Jury went to investigate the place the desk had come from, he found a big bloodstain on the carpet. The removal men who had taken the desk away had evidently never noticed that! Really?
In another place, the writer refers to a cup being "sat" in front of a character. One does not "sat" an object in place - one sets an object in place. I'm sure Martha Grimes knows that, but miscues like that have the capacity to annoy me no end.
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