Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury returns in a new mystery that is every bit as clever and suspenseful as her earlier books. The plot is intriguing and features the usual cast of characters Grimes fans have come to know and love, as well as a set of streetwise, worldly children that could have come straight out of a Dickens novel.
Grimes opens the story with cabbie Robbie Parsons hijacked by a man with a gun who tells him just to drive. While they drive, Robbie uses his headlights to signal other Black Cabs that he’s in trouble. That triggers a network of “eyes and ears” throughout London who keep watch on the cab. When the man finally exits the cab at a train station, a gang of children who “work” the tube and train stations in London, picking pockets, cadging free lunches, and keeping their eyes and ears open are enlisted to follow the man. One, a young girl named Patty, follows him through Heathrow Airport and all the way to Nairobi. So begins one leg of the story that Grimes will eventually tie up neatly.
Meanwhile, Jury is faced with investigating the murders of two people he’s only just met. Both were shot outside the hottest, most private club in London by, you guessed it, the guy from the cab. Jury works to untangle a vicious web of family deceit, scorned love, and smuggled gemstones. Trusted pal Melrose Plant heads to Nairobi to investigate the gemstones connection, where he conveniently finds Patty, the waif from the gang of kids.
Grimes has a few common plot elements that show up here – the plucky wise-beyond-her-years child, the person or persons Jury meets and likes who then meet a grisly end, and the kind-hearted villain. She also names her books after a pub, and in this case, it’s The Knowledge – a mysterious, unfindable pub known only to official Black Cab drivers. Grimes inserts some fun trivia about The Knowledge, such as a story about how the Queen disguised herself and attempted to get a cabbie to take her there; however, the pub itself really doesn’t play a role in the story.
I had thought for awhile that this series might have played itself out, and there are plot inconsistencies, to be sure (like, if you get picky with the timeline of the series Jury should be in his 80s now) but it doesn’t really matter. Jury, Melrose Plant, Vivian, Carolanne, and Marshall are ageless. In fact, we learn some new things about Marshall Trueblood’s past as he takes a heftier role in this book.
What remains consistent through the series is Jury’s internal struggle to balance good and evil, and his ability to come out of a horrifying case and still recognize goodness in people. Grimes has spent years developing the relationships among the characters, so they feel like old friends.
Grimes’ writing is sharp as usual, blending vivid descriptions with intriguing, likable characters. I, for one, dearly hope she will continue to write many more Richard Jury stories, which are a blend of British police procedurals and cozies. If you haven’t read the Richard Jury series before, this is not the place to begin. Go back to the beginning and start with The Man With a Load of Mischief and work your way through..