RogerBW's Blog

The Man With a Load of Mischief, Martha Grimes 13 November 2021

1981 mystery, first in the Richard Jury series (mostly cosy mystery with police investigator, rather than police procedural). When the second murder happens in the village, the local force calls in Scotland Yard. But several more people will die before it's all resolved.

Grimes is an American writer, and the book is full of Americanisms which might not distract a reader who was more used to them: "a wiseacre of a police surgeon", "a polyethylene sheet" (at least I assume it's an Americanism; it was always "polythene" here in England), a dog called "Mindy", "once you're through dinner", and even someone who "flayed me a skunk this morning". In Northamptonshire. None of this is crucial to the plot, but it's a repeated niggling for my attention while I'm trying to concentrate on the actual story, especially since one of the things I'm alert for as a reasonably experienced mystery reader is people not acting or speaking they way they might be expected to.

Get past that and there's something a bit more interesting, a village murder mystery that's self-aware, but not quite self-aware enough to descend into winking parody. And it's a different sort of double act from the standard: Inspector Jury befriends Melrose Plant, who would be Lord Ardry had he not resigned his title, and rather than the usual situation where one of them has to explain everything to the other, each uses their own skills and reasoning ability to work out parts of what must be going on.

(There's also his annoying busybody aunt, and I found myself at a loss to see why he should be at all polite to her, especially since she has no manners at all. In fact, while all the other characters fall somewhat into stereotype, none of the women manages to be anything other than either pitiable or horrible, sometimes both.)

Definitely a series I'll continue with, though this start has some rough edges. I hope Jury won't make a habit of falling instantly in love with suspects, mind.

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Series: Richard Jury | Next in series: The Old Fox Deceiv'd

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