I don't know how many of you have followed Martha Grimes' Richard Jury novels. They are a weird combination of crime, mystery, quirky friendships, witty repartee, familiar places, and plenty of recurring characters.
The titles in the series are for various pubs: The Man with a Load of Mischief, The Old Silent, The Grave Maurice, etc. In a recent article, Grimes states, "The only research I do is the accidental coming upon of a pub, the name of which I think is just fantastic." Only then does she consider the plot.
Vertigo 42 is a little different; it opens with a meeting in a modern wine bar instead of the traditional pub, but Grimes uses the title as a basis for the plot and makes references to Hitchcock's film.
I have definite favorites among the books I've read. Some appeal to me more than others, but what never fails to please me is meeting characters like Carole-Anne and Wiggins and the awful Cripps family again. Of course, no Jury novel is complete without the Long Piddleton group, and it goes without saying that without Jury's foil Melrose Plant, the novels would lose much of their charm. Most of their charm. Long live Melrose Plant. What? So...maybe I do like Melrose Plant better than Richard Jury.
The novels are classified as "cozy," but by no means are they light-weight. Cozy mysteries characteristically include a lack of graphic violence or sex, a small community setting and long-standing relationships, and an emphasis on puzzle-solving. By those lights, the Jury novels certainly fall into the cozy genre, but some cozy mysteries are like meringue, lots of air, light, and fun, yet not fully satisfying. The Jury novels have more heft.
Another couple of details that can always be found in these novels: a child or children and animals, and they are not throw-aways, they have a purpose.
Vertigo 42 is not my favorite Jury novel, but I did enjoy it. Grimes creates interesting puzzles and wonderful characters, and I continue to enjoy the wide community of people and places she has created. There are now 23 books in this series, and if I could afford to, I'd love to read them from first to last. I've read most, but not all of them, and starting at the beginning would be fun.
In 2012, Martha Grimes was awarded the title of Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, joining such notables as Agatha Christie, John le Carre, Elmore Leonard, Barbara Mertz, Tony Hillerman, and P.D. James (and many other great mystery writers).
Read in January; review scheduled for May.
Mystery/Police Procedural. June 3, 2014. Print version: 336 pages.