Monday, April 13, 2015

The Old Silent by Martha Grimes: A review

The Old SilentThe Old Silent by Martha Grimes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Continuing my reading trip through the Martha Grimes series featuring Superintendent Richard Jury of New Scotland Yard, I have arrived at the tenth entry, The Old Silent. So, I'm not quite to the halfway mark yet in a series that extends, to this point, to twenty-three books.

The series has evolved quite a lot since its beginning. Sgt. Wiggins has become a more fully fleshed-out and sympathetic character. Brian Macalvie, the stubborn District Superintendent who never gives up on a case, sometimes returning to a years-old crime to solve it and who, it seems, is never wrong, has become a returning character in these stories. And we've become more familiar with all the residents of the sleepy little village of Long Piddleton, especially amateur detective Melrose Plant. All in all, it is a good mix of interesting characters, enough to keep the reader involved and invested in the outcome.

In this book, we see Richard Jury somewhat at the end of his tether, exhausted and overworked. He's doing a bit of lollygagging and engaging in one of his favorite activities, observing a beautiful woman. The woman in question seems distracted and is unaware of his presence as he shadows her around the little village where they are. He follows her to the local pub, The Old Silent, and watches her meet a man there. They appear to argue and as the man turns to leave, the woman stands and shoots him dead. All of a sudden, Richard Jury has become a witness to murder. Or is it? Are there extenuating circumstances?

As Jury begins to look into the case, we learn of a crime that occurred eight years before, involving the disappearance of two young boys, one of whom was the son of the man killed and stepson of the woman who shot him. Jury suspects early on that the killing of the father is somehow related to the disappearance of the son.

It proved to be the case that one of the early investigators on the disappearance of the boys was a young Macalvie. He was soon booted off the case because he offended his superiors - something which he routinely does. But the case was never solved and, of course, he has never forgotten it nor given up on it. He soon becomes involved with Jury's investigation and at the same time the bones of a teenage boy and a dog are discovered buried in a disused area of the local cemetery. Macalvie is convinced that they are the bones of the missing son/stepson, even though the pathologist says the age of the bones is wrong. Silly pathologist! He should know not to argue with Macalvie.

The investigation proceeds on multiple fronts. Jury becomes involved in and intrigued by a popular rock band, particularly a young guitarist/vocalist in the band, with a possible connection to the crime(s). This leads him and Sgt. Wiggins down some interesting pathways and we learn more about Wiggins' encyclopedic knowledge of music, one of his many surprising talents.

Melrose Plant becomes involved when he visits the village where the killing occurred, rescues a cat and takes it to the local vet where he sees the formidable Abby Cable, a young girl who has come there to pick up the dead body of her own cat. We suspect immediately that Abby is going to become central to this story and that Plant, who always seems to have the role of interacting with children and animals, is going to appoint himself to the role of her guardian angel.

As always, Martha Grimes does a good job of developing the plot and leading the reader through her paces with her vivid descriptions of characters and her well-written dialogues. Still, in spite of the fact that she is pretty straightforward in telling the story, she manages to pull off a surprise at the end, even though she had given us an important clue and fair warning earlier in the book.

This series has been pretty consistently good throughout and this particular entry certainly continues to uphold that standard. I wouldn't say it is one of her best, but it does rank pretty highly and makes me eager to read number eleven to find out just where these characters are going.


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