Two pubs in Long Piddleton are the sights of two murders. Scotland Yard's Richard Jury gets some help from Long Piddleton's own Melrose Plant to root out evil in the heart of the village.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful: MYSTERY WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR, April 1, 2003 Reviewer: Loren D. Morrison from Los Angeles County, U.S.A. In her Richard Jury/Melrose Plant series of mysteries, Martha Grimes has developed an ensemble cast who play the same role, but with different levels of involvement from book to book. As one works his way through these mystery novels, all the members of the ensemble take on lives of their own. Another reviewer has stated that, in later novels, this being the first in the series, they become stereotypes. It is my opinion that they merely stay in character. This is not to say however that they don't show growth and appropriate change with time and circumstance. They do. One should know that the name of this book, THE MAN WITH A LOAD OF MISCHIEF, is the name of an English pub where part of the action takes place. This approach is taken in all of the novels in this series. (18 to date covering over 20 years of writing) Although any one of these novels can be read in any order, this one gives more character background than any of the others. (I read it after having already read 16 others and it didn't hurt my comprehension of the others a bit.) Each novel has an interesting and entertaining plot. That said, what really distinguishes Ms Grimes' writing is the humor and local color she evokes through the antics, interrelationships, and subplots involving the various members of her cast of characters. There are over a dozen of them and each is fully realized with personalities, weaknesses and strengths, likes and dislikes, and friends and enemies. The plot here involves the murder of strangers visiting the English town of Long Piddleton. In order to solve the mystery of the murders, it is first necessary to determine whether the murders were the random work of some madman, or if they were somehow related in a way that is not apparent. That is the gist of the plot. The ensemble consists of 12 to 18 characters whose importance tends to vary from novel to novel. In this, and most of the others, Detective Chief Inspector Richard Jury of New Scotland Yard, his assistant, the hypochondriacal Sergeant Wiggins, and his newfound friend in Long Piddleton, Melrose Plant, the former Lord Ardry are the key participants (Melrose is the former Lord Ardry because he didn't want the title of Earl and so renounced it.) There are a great number of players at the next tier and each is important in his own right. Some provide a real touch of humor, and others contribute to the main plot, but all combine to make this book what it is. I must digress here and give a short description of Melrose Plant's Aunt Agatha - Lady Ardry - Lady because she happened to marry Melrose's titled uncle. She is an American and is enamored of the concept of being titled. Picture, if you will, a rather rotund late middle-aged woman who wears a cape, pushing open a door with no regard as to who or what might be on the other side, wielding a silver cane, like a sword, shoving aside anyone who happens to be between her and her destination. As often as not, her destination is a tray of cakes, tarts, and other sweets which she demands as her due at her nephew's home. After eating them all, she complains because there are no more, and on her way out pilfers Melrose's late mother's diamond ring, or a precious jade carving, or some other valuable item. Later she will wear the jewelry or display the stolen object in front of Melrose with no sense of shame. How Melrose handles this with humor and a shrug of his shoulders is an example of Ms. Grimes tongue in cheek manner. Another character we come to know and love is Cyril The Cat who loves to torment Jury's Superior (in rank only) and always outwits him. There are more, lots more. So if one likes mystery with a liberal sprinkling of humor THE MAN WITH A LOAD OF MISCHIEF might be just what the doctor ordered.