My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book started out as a sort of homage to Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, sometimes referred to as the best mystery ever written. Like the protagonist in that book, we find Superintendent Richard Jury laid up in a hospital bed and unable to pursue his usual occupation. He needs distraction. Sergeant Wiggins brings him Tey's book to read and his doctor provides him with a much more current mystery.
When last we saw Jury (in The Blue Last) he was lying grievously wounded on a dock. He was found there by a dog and his boy and by his friend Melrose Plant. His life was saved and now he's in recovery, soon to be released. But in the meantime, his mind needs something to occupy it.
His surgeon catches his interest with a mystery from his own life. Two years earlier, his fifteen-year-old daughter had vanished without a trace along with a champion thoroughbred that she was tending at her grandfather's stud farm. Both the horse and the girl disappeared from the barn one night and no one has seen them since.
Jury reviews the known facts of the case and determines to investigate. He's not cleared to return to duty and so he will have some time to look into the matter unofficially.
While still in the hospital, he sends his friend Plant to the stud farm to reconnoiter the place and find out what he can. Melrose arrives to find the local police already there. The body of a woman has been found on one of the training tracks. Everyone at the farm claims not to recognize the woman. How did she happen to end up on that track?
Plant's excuse for going to the farm in the first place is to pretend that he's interested in buying a horse. As these things usually turn out when Melrose Plant is involved, he winds up actually buying a horse. A very expensive stallion.
Once Jury is released from the hospital, he heads to Northampton to convalesce at Plant's home and then he begins his own investigation into the girl's disappearance. Could it somehow be related to the murder of the woman who was found on the training track? There are few clues and Jury finds that he must attempt to piece together tiny bits of information and connections in order to try to get a clear picture of what has happened.
Martha Grimes is up to one of her usual twisting and turning plots in this book. It becomes a rather dark story as we get further into it, involving the abuse of the abducted girl and the abuse of pregnant mares kept for the production of their urine that is used in making the hormone replacement therapy drug Premarin. Grimes paints an all too vivid picture of the lives of the poor mares that are kept tied up and without a chance to exercise, their every drop of urine collected. The reader intuits that this is not going to end happily. And it doesn't.
But (spoiler alert) at least the mares survive and move on to green pastures.
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