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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Jury’

Martha Grimes’ clever Richard Jury novels take their titles from British pubs, and there have been some doozies over the years: I Am the Only Running Footman, Help the Poor Struggler, Five Bells and Bladebone. So the 24th in the series, The Knowledge (Grove Atlantic, digital galley) seems merely another curiosity. But don’t go looking for it in London. The Knowledge, which refers to the street maps that the drivers of London’s famous black cabs know by heart, is also the name of a hidden, cabbies-only pub so secret that even Scotland Yard can’t find it. The story of the pub is one of the whimsical digressions in the murder case Jury is investigating, the shooting deaths of an American astronomer and his wife on the steps of a private casino. The shooter escapes in a black cab, but the stalwart driver alerts his network and Patty Haigh, a sassy preteen Sherlock, manages to pick up his trail at Heathrow and wrangle a first-class ticket to Kenya. Jury will eventually dispatch his pal Melrose Plant on safari to find Patty, while placing antiques dealer Marshall Trueblood inside the casino to deal cards. The complicated plot involving drugs, stolen art and greedy villains, is almost an afterthought, but who cares when the gang’s all here, plus winsome newcomers. I was totally charmed. Like lovely Vivian, I can’t make up my mind between Jury and Plant, so I’ll take both, please.

The many charms of Venice are on full display in Donna Leon’s new Guido Brunetti novel, The Temptation of Forgiveness (Grove Atlantic, digital galley), which is as thoughtful as it is atmospheric. Brunetti moves adroitly from vicious office politics to happy family life to investigating the case of a comatose beating victim. Turns out he is the accountant husband of a teacher whom Brunetti’s wife knows and who recently approached Brunetti about the drug problem at her son’s private school. Is there a connection? Perhaps. Meanwhile, what of the man’s elderly aunt, a Miss Havisham-like figure in a Venice apartment? The leisurely plot hinges on government corruption to no one’s surprise, this being a city long familiar with frauds of all kinds. But there’s something particularly unjust about a system that takes advantage of its most vulnerable citizens. Here’s a vision of Venice that tourists don’t see, and it’s not pretty.

Scotland Yard’s Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers return in Elizabeth George’s immersive doorstop The Punishment She Deserves (Penguin, purchased e-book), but so does their boss, Isabelle Ardery, who exists on vodka and breath mints. There’s no love lost between Lynley and Ardery, even though or because of a brief affair, but Ardery really has it in for Havers. So she takes the DS with her to Ludlow to investigate a possible case of police malfeasance, hoping Havers will go rogue and hang herself. Six weeks earlier, a church deacon suspected of pedophilia hung himself while in police custody, but the dead man’s influential parents insist he would never commit suicide. Ardery wants to make sure the original investigation was legit so as to avert any lawsuit, but Havers keeps picking at loose ends, of which there are many. Also multiple suspects, motives and red herrings. It will take Lynley’s late intervention to prove Havers right and get the case back on track but not before readers have met three college students rooming together in a rundown house, a community police officer with dyslexia, another police officer with family problems who likes to hang glide, a bar owner with an upstairs room to rent by the hour, a homeless man with a dog and claustrophobia, and Ardery’s ex, who is about to take their twin sons to live in New Zealand. There’s rather too much of Ardery and not enough Lynley to my liking, but Havers tap dances. Really.

YA crossover alert. Maureen Johnson launches an intriguing new series with Truly Devious (HarperCollins, purchased e-book), which is somewhat reminiscent of  her Shades of London series, with its boarding school setting and teenage protagonist. But Ellingham Academy was established by an eccentric tycoon in rural Vermont, and only accepts the best and the brightest, for whom tuition is free. Stevie Bell gets in because of her obsession with true crime and detecting skills, and she vows to solve an infamous cold case despite her panic attacks. Back in 1936, the founder’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and a student died. The only clue was a nasty rhyme signed “Truly Devious.” Just as Stevie is getting used to the weirdness that is Ellingham and her fellow students, Truly Devious appears to strike again and the book ends with a cliffhanger. Johnson increases the suspense of the Christie-like case by alternating narratives between present day and 1936. Waiting for the next installment is going to be difficult, but I’ve had experience with Brittany Cavallaro’s Charlotte Holmes  series, which continues with The Case for Jamie (HarperCollins, library hardcover). The first book, A Study in Charlotte, found Sherlock Holmes’ descendant Charlotte Holmes meeting up with Dr. Watson’s descendant Jamie Watson at an American boarding school, where they were targeted by members of the Moriarty crime family. Then events turned even darker in The Last of August, and as the third book begins, best friends Jamie and Charlotte haven’t spoken in a year. Jamie’s back at school for his senior year, with a nice girlfriend and no idea as to Charlotte’s whereabouts. He no longer trusts her after a shocking betrayal. But the Moriarty clan is apparently bent on ruining Jamie’s life so as to get to Charlotte, who is feeling guilty and driven as she tries to save him from afar. They alternate narrating chapters, often at cross-purposes until finally joining forces to defeat Lucien Moriarty or die trying, which is a real possibility. A happy ending? Not going to tell you.

 

 

 

 

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fishCandy and Karl.  Karl and Candy. The names are familiar. Are they that couple down the street? Or are those their dogs?

No, wait. I remember. Candy and Karl are the professional hit men who insist on getting to know their targets before taking them out. First met them in Martha Grimes’ goofy send-up of the book industry, 1983’s Foul Matter, where they gave new meaning to the term “publishing contract.”

Now, Candy and Karl return in a  satirical sequel, The Way of All Fish (Scribner, purchased e-book), this time going after unscrupulous literary agent L. Bass Hess. They find much to dislike about oily L. Bass, who sues former clients for commissions on books he did not sell. Fortunately for L. Bass, Manhattan publishing pooh-bah Bobby Mackenzie and best-selling author Paul Giverney (also from Foul Matter) don’t want the agent dead. No, they decide to drive him crazy, which is where Candy and Karl come in, as well as literary novelist Cindy Sella, a sleek Malaysian grifter, several kind-hearted Brooklyn slackers, a pig farmer/button man, L. Bass’s wealthy aunt (formerly uncle) who lives in South Florida, and numerous tropical fish. Choice set pieces involve an alligator, a junkyard ghost, a seance in a Pittsburgh museum, and, at book’s beginning, a shoot-out at the Clownfish Cafe that shatters an aquarium.

“Now the brightly colored fish, clown fish, tangs, angelfish of neon blue and sun-bright yellow, were drawing last breaths until the blonde who had been eating spaghetti tossed the remnants of red wine from her glass and scooped up some water and added one of the fish to the wineglass.” Other diners follow her example until the cafe’s tables are filled with pitchers and glasses, “and in every glass swam a fish, its color brightened from underneath by a stubby candle that seemed at last to have found a purpose in life.”

Anyone who has read Grimes’ other novels, including the long-running Richard Jury detective series, knows that she has a way with words and quirky details. Such a lovely wit. And no one does mist and melancholy better.

The Way of All Fish is as funny as Foul Matter, although not quite as fresh because readers already have been introduced to aptly named publishing houses like Mackenzie-Haack and Swinedale and the depths to which writers, editors, publishers, agents, etc. will descend. As Candy and Karl discovered, “Books were to die for. Literally. . .How would they have ever guessed the publishing world was so shot through with acrimony that they’d just as soon kill you as publish you?” Now, the two are wise to the industry, hanging out in Barnes & Noble and flipping the pages of PW.  However, they have yet to write their own book. Then again, Grimes is doing a whale of a job for them.

confessionsIf you like this kind of inside-pages tale, check out Jane O’Connor’s Almost True Confessions (HarperCollins, digital galley), which I galloped through last fall. Free-lance copyeditor Rannie Bookman’s thrilled to get a chance to edit the latest top-secret tell-all by an infamous celebrity biographer. But then Rannie finds the author’s dead body and puts on her sleuthing cap against the advice of her cop boyfriend. She suspects the murder may be tied to the manuscript’s enigmatic dedication. What or who is “Audeo”? I’ll never tell…

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Martha Grimes has a grand time toying with readers in The Black Cat, a playful tale of murder, mistaken identity, designer shoes and a talented mongrel named Mungo. There are also three black cats (four if you count the pub that gives its book the title), and, naturally, one is called Schrodinger. That cat, who has a drawer of licorice-colored kittens, and Mungo live with con man and bon-vivant Harry Johnson, who delights in bedeviling Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury.

This is the 22nd Richard Jury mystery, and it’s not for newcomers to the series, although it’s vintage Grimes with its nifty set pieces, eccentric characters and puzzling plot. Those in the know will grin and bear it (I personally can’t stand Harry Johnson) so as to see the personable Jury back in action, even as his latest lady love, Lu Aguilar, is in critical condition after a traffic accident.  There’s nothing he can do other than feel guilty about not feeling guilty enough so he absorbs himself in the murders of three women, all of whom were working for different escort services under assumed names, all “dressed to kill.”

Several series regulars turn up — Wiggins, Melrose Plant, cheeky Carole-anne, but there’s an almost aimless, come-as-you-are quality to their roles. Dr. Phyllis Nancy has a star turn, and it’s about time. The story meanders in whimsical fashion before eventually reaching a satisfying resolution.

This is not my favorite Jury mystery, but I love the chapter where Jury finds a lost dog and takes it to the All-Hours Animal Hospital. “There were times when you just had to save something.”  

Open Book: Martha Grimes’ The Black Cat is published by Viking. I bought my copy. I’ve interviewed Martha Grimes several times over the years, most memorably in an eerily quiet Orlando airport in 2001. Her book tour was supposed to have begun on Sept. 11, but was delayed for several days.

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