Ten-fifteen years ago, if you’d asked about my favourite book series I probably would have said it was those by Martha Grimes and featuring Scotland Yard detective Richard Jury alongside the aristocratic but diffident Melrose Plant.
All named after a pub featured the in book (kicking off with The Man With A Load of Mischief in 1981), they were my comfort reads. I LOVED our main players – Jury himself and Melrose Plant of course. I’d even worked out who should play each in a TV series at one point. (And was later disappointed to see those cast in a German series based on the books – a bit like my response to the UK TV version of the Elizabeth George’s Inspector Thomas Lynley series.)
by Martha Grimes
Series: Richard Jury #24
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press
on April 3rd 2018
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 0802128017, 9780802128010
Robbie Parsons is one of London’s finest, a black cab driver who knows every street, every theater, every landmark in the city by heart. In his backseat is a man with a gun in his hand—a man who brazenly committed a crime in front of the Artemis Club, a rarefied art gallery-cum-casino, then jumped in and ordered Parsons to drive. As the criminal eventually escapes to Nairobi, Detective Superintendent Richard Jury comes across the case in the Saturday paper.
Two days previously, Jury had met and instantly connected with one of the victims of the crime, a professor of astrophysics at Columbia and an expert gambler. Feeling personally affronted, Jury soon enlists Melrose Plant, Marshall Trueblood, and his whole gang of merry characters to contend with a case that takes unexpected turns into Tanzanian gem mines, a closed casino in Reno, Nevada, and a pub that only London’s black cabbies, those who have “the knowledge,” can find.
I struggled a little at one point in this series. Jury seemed to constantly be falling in love with women you’d least expect and it felt as if the story, and our characters, floundered a little. Even now I’m not sure if their lives are really going anywhere. Perhaps Grimes doesn’t know where she wants to take them. Indeed, I read somewhere that she’d ‘slowed’ time between each book in the series to avoid the characters ageing too much.
And in reality they haven’t really aged since I first met them 20-30 years ago, which IS a good thing for me. I don’t want to read about them as 80yr olds, but would prefer they stay in their 30s, 40s or 50s. (Or perhaps I want them to age at a similar pace to me…. which I’d also like to be slowed down if at all possible? #Kthnxbai).
Once upon a time if anyone had once asked me what book series I’d like to be transported to, I would have chosen this one, and Melrose’s – directionless but fun nevertheless – life in Long Piddleton.)
There are many things I adore about the series. The characters, obviously. Grimes really nails the voices of her main cast, including Jury, Plant, Jury’s colleague Wiggins and neighbour Carole-Anne Palutski, along with Plant’s eccentric band of English aristocrats; incidentally, written incredibly well by an American author.
And… I think I’ve said this before, she writes kids really really well. Many of her Jury / Plant series have featured self-possessed and audacious youngsters all playing well off both main characters. (And then of course there’s her Emma Graham series, centred around the series’ 12yr old namesake.)
It’s no different here as we’re dragged from London to Kenya by Patty, a 10yr old street kid. (One needs to suspend disbelief, I must admit, in contemplating how a child could travel on two international flights, roam about Nairobi and eventually run into the one person she needs to. But, #whatevs)
I could easily have read this in a sitting and was tempted to ditch my plans to do so. My original plan involved only starting the book but I kept going, such is the warm enveloping nature of Grimes’ narrative.
As always, both of our heroes get their time in the spotlight – I’ve wondered if she prefers one over the other – and think I was once very much in team Jury camp, but am prevaricating a bit about that (and team-Melrose) as I’ve gotten older.
The Knowledge by Martha Grimes will be published by Grove Atlantic and available in early April 2018.
I received an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley for review purposes.