Reading...Martha Grimes

A new Richard Jury mystery by Martha Grimes is out now, and I'm looking forward to reading it. I first discovered Richard Jury about eight years ago at a library book sale. I picked up a dollar paperback called The Lamorna Wink because it sounded like the kind of cold and rainy British mystery that I love. It took a bit for me to get into -- because it's smack in the middle of the series, there were some character assumptions that I just didn't get. But the story stands on its own, and ultimately I thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then, I've picked up most of the books in the Richard Jury series and loved each one. Jury himself is a complicated character whom the reader gets to know over the course of the series. And like a real person, Jury evolves as the series progresses, changing over time, circumstances, and as a reaction to life events. Apart from Jury, the series also contains a great cast of secondary characters: Melrose Plant and Alfred Wiggins appear the most consistently in each book, but there are a number of other characters that readers get to know throughout the series: Mrs. Wasserman, Carole-Anne Palutski, Stan Keeler, Marshal Trueblood, Diane DeMorney, Vivian Rivington, Lady Agatha...all populate the world of Richard Jury and all come to feel like friends (or friendly enemies, depending).

In addition to writing great characters, Martha Grimes also tells a good mystery. Her stories are well plotted and beautifully written. There are layers beyond just the who-done-it aspect of the story, questions asked and sometimes not answered. There is a darkness to some of the books, as you'd expect when the main character deals with death on a regular basis -- including death that sometimes strikes close to home.

And finally, Grimes sets the stage well. Each book is a trip to England, sometimes London, sometimes a small village. But when you sit down with one of the Richard Jury books, you'll want easy access to a pint, a pub, and a good cup of tea.

Grimes has written several non-Jury related novels, and though I've only read one of them (Foul Matter, an absolutely fantastic dark comedy about the publishing world), it only increased my appreciation for Grimes' work.

Bottom line: if you like a good British police mystery, complicated characters, or stories with excellent ensemble casts, you can't do much better than Martha Grimes and Richard Jury.