The Stargazey: A Richard Jury Mystery by Martha Grimes
It all starts with two unlikely passengers on the same number 14 Fulham Road bus--Scotland Yard superintendent Richard Jury and a glamorous blonde woman in a sable coat. He can't keep his eyes off her, and when she disembarks, Jury follows her to the gates of Fulham Palace. He loses her in the fog, however, and when she's found shot to death in the herb garden of the palace, the game's afoot--especially since the victim may only look like Jury's blonde, but not be her at all. Two glamorous women in priceless fur coats in an obscure little museum in the London suburbs on the same foggy autumn night? Well, maybe. Or maybe not. The plot ultimately involves chicanery in the art world, a family of Russian émigrés, a missing Chagall, an international female assassin, a couple of unsettlingly strange young girls, and a hilarious send up of a stuffy English men's club. The tale serves a hearty helping of Grimes's usual interesting, not to say eccentric, characters. Among the most consistently fascinating of these is Jury's aristocratic friend Melrose Plant, a direct descendant of Lord Peter Wimsey and other wealthy, titled, amateur English detectives. Fans of Grimes's previous Superintendent Jury capers--each of which takes its name from an English pub--will enjoy the jokes, and new readers will appreciate the author's dry wit, her sharp eye for British oddities, and the way she turns an ordinary police procedural into a cozy little study of the national character. The Jury series began with The Man with a Load of Mischief (1981) and has included The Deer Leap (1985), The Horse You Came In On (1993), The Case Has Altered (1997), and several other tales. --Jane Adams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Intersting mix of characters, April 13, 2002
Martha E. Nelson
from Watertown, Wisconsin
Rarely are there completely amoral characters in Martha Grimes' novels. The character of "Dana," if that is what we are to call her, comes close here--a woman who has exhausted the thrill of risk for monetary gain in her life and can only get a thrill from inventing new ways to take risks. (This is mixed with a spoken longing to just lead a normal, British life, which is not completely an act, I think.) Richrad Jury is still looking for a soulmate in this novel, and instead runs into a character who is as unable to commit as he is. In this novel Jury seems to be presented with a variety of alternatives for his life: continuing his solitary life, letting "Kate McBride" in, or letting Carole-ann in. All of these alternatives are eductive in some way. Melrose Plant also seems to be trying out alternative lives in this book--he stays at Borings, a hilariously funny traditional men's club, and also succumbs to the dubious attractions of the Cripps' establishment. Along the way we see new aspects to Bea Slocum, a character who seems to bring out the best in Melrose, and Diane Demornay, who comes along at the right moment to save the day. This is a good example of Grimes' later Richard Jury novels, which certainly have complex, interesting plots, but actually are more psychological studies of her main characters. I like this later work a great deal.