The Barnes & Noble Review
The 18th novel in Martha Grimes's popular Richard Jury series finds the author extending her range, echoing the work of two other masters of mystery -- Josephine Tey and Dick Francis -- while skewering British society with a droll, rapier wit.
The fun starts with Jury lying in a hospital bed, recuperating from the bullet wound he received at the end of The Blue Last. In a scene reminiscent of Tey’s classic hospital bed mystery, The Daughter of Time, a bored, frustrated Jury is overjoyed when his assistant, Melrose Plant, arrives with a proffered mystery. While in the local pub, called the Grave Maurice, Plant overhears a conversation concerning the disappearance of teenager Nell Ryder, the daughter of Jury’s surgeon. Nell vanished two years earlier from the family horse farm, but there are rumors she’s been seen riding at midnight on her favorite mare. On Jury’s orders, Plant enters the occasionally bizarre world of horse racing. There he meets Nell’s cousin, Maurice, a grave lad plagued by an adolescent growth spurt that’s left him too tall to be a jockey, his only dream since he was a boy. The eccentric suspects start piling up, as do the murders, as Jury is eventually released from the hospital and enters the fray. Grimes, perhaps overcompensating for entering the equestrian universe dominated by Dick Francis, spends a bit too much time giving us the minute details of horse breeding. However, the offbeat characters -- especially a demanding nurse who infuriates Jury -- are so likable they soon smooth over any bumps in the narrative road. The Grave Maurice is a strange and unique amalgam of satire and mystery that works on most levels, thanks to the author’s sure and talented hand. Tom Piccirilli
Grimes's popular mysteries are named after British pubs, and Rees's excellent performance here will make readers feel as if they're at the bar themselves, listening to the actor spin a good, old-fashioned detective story. Grimes (The Blue Last) has updated Josephine Tey's famous Daughter of Time by having her detective, Scotland Yard's own Richard Jury, solve a mystery while spending time in a hospital. Jury's friend, the aristocratic and occasionally ponderous Melrose Plant, overhears two women talking in the Grave Maurice about Richard's surgeon, whose daughter disappeared two years before from the racing stable where she worked. With Plant doing the legwork, Jury manages to solve the case without getting out of his pajamas. Rees, known for playing an arrogant British ambassador on The West Wing, nicely delineates Plant from the saltier, more ironic Jury, presenting a satisfying tale that should delight mystery fans. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 5). (Aug.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Richard Jury is back, and he's in the hospital but not for long. Dependable sidekick Melrose Plant has overheard the tale of a missing girl, and when it turns out that she is the daughter of Jury's surgeon and that the gossipy woman who related the story is now dead the daring duo take the case. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Inspector Richard Jury lies in hospital, rescued and recuperating from the unresolved ending of his 16th case (The Blue Last, 2001, etc.). His waking hours are spent fending off the intrusions of simpering Nurse Bell and (naturally) studying Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time when his sidekick Melrose Plant visits with a mystery closer to home. Nell Ryder, the teenaged daughter of Jury's surgeon Roger, has been missing nearly two years. Ever since she vanished from the family business, the successful Ryder Stud Farm, along with the valuable horse Aqueduct, Nell's case has languished in the absence of leads or a ransom demand. With Jury incapacitated, the wealthy Melrose delves with a vengeance into the singular world of horse breeding and racing. Grimes, meanwhile, offers glimpses of a free-spirited Nell riding Aqueduct through the countryside under cover of darkness, hinting at a more complex explanation of her kidnapping. On a training track, Nell comes across the corpse of a woman, meticulously dressed and coiffed. When police swarm the site next morning, Melrose recognizes the victim as the woman he overheard talking in a pub called the Grave Maurice about Nell's disappearance. Maurice is also the name of Nell's naïve young cousin, fearful of his robust father, who rides as well as raises equine champions. Released from hospital, Jury makes up for lost time, questioning among others a handful of sexually aggressive women with designs on him. Quintessential Grimes, with a rich canvas and suspicion bouncing from one quirky character to another like a pumped-up pinball.
From the Publisher
"Beguiling characters...blissful setting." —The New York Times
"Wickedly clever...fans will rejoice." —Chattanooga Times-Free Press
"Plenty of wit, danger, and fully rounded characters." —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Read an Excerpt
Twenty months later
Melrose Plant looked around the rather grim environs of the Grave Maurice and wondered if it was patronized by the staff of the Royal London Hospital across the street. Apparently it did serve as some sort of stopping-off point for them, for Melrose recognized one of the doctors standing at the farther end of the long bar. As Melrose stood there inside the door, the doctor emptied his half-pint, gathered up his coat and turned to leave. He passed Melrose on his way out of the pub and gave him a distracted nod and a vague smile, as if he were trying to place him. Melrose stepped up to the place the doctor had left, filling the vacuum. He was looking at the woman close by, one of surpassing beauty-glossy, dark hair, high cheekbones, eyes whose color he couldn't see without staring but which were large and widely spaced. She was talking to another woman, hair a darkish blond, whose back was turned to Melrose and who drank a pale drink, probably a Chardonnay, whose ubiquity, together with the wine bars that loved to serve it up, Melrose couldn't understand. The dark-haired one was drinking stout. Good for her. The bartender, a bearded Indian, posed an indecipherable query that Melrose could only suppose was a variant of "What will it be, mate?" The operative term was either "grog" or "dog," as in "Want a bit o' grog?" or "Walkin' yer dog?" Having no dog, Melrose ordered an Old Peculier.
The Grave Maurice had its foot in the door of "hovel-like." Melrose looked all around and made his assessment, pleased. For some reason, he could always appreciate a hovel; he felt quite at home. The incomprehensible barman, the patched window, the broken table leg, the streaked mirror, the clientele. The two women near him were a cut above the other customers. They were well dressed, the dark-haired one quite fashionably, in a well-cut black suit and understated jewelry. The blond one, whose profile Melrose glimpsed, appeared to know the barman (even to understand the barman) with his raffishly wound turban. After he returned, smilingly, with the refills and Melrose's fresh drink and then took himself off, the dark-haired woman picked up their conversation again. The blonde was doing the listening.
They were talking about someone named Ryder, which immediately made Melrose prick up his ears, as this was the name of the doctor who had just departed and whom, he supposed, the one woman must have recognized. But he was rather surprised to hear him further referred to as "poor sod." The second woman, whose voice was distinct while at the same time being low and unobtrusive, asked the dark-haired one what she meant.
Melrose waited for the answer.
Unfortunately, the details were getting lost in the woman's lowered voice, but he did catch the word disappeared. The dark-haired woman dipped her head to her glass and said something else that Melrose couldn't catch.
But then he heard, "His daughter. It was in the papers."
The blonde seemed appalled. "When was that?"
"Nearly two years ago, but it doesn't get any-"
Melrose lost the rest of the comment.
The one who had made it shrugged slightly, not a dismissive shrug, but a weary one. Weary, perhaps, of misfortune. If she was a doctor too, Melrose could understand the weariness.
Then she said, ". . . brother was my . . . killed . . ."
The blonde made a sound of sympathy and said, "How awful. Did-"
If only they'd stop talking clearly on the one hand and whispering on the other! Melrose, who kept telling himself he couldn't help overhearing this conversation, could, of course, have taken his beer to a table, and he supposed he would if his presence so close beside them got to be a little too noticeable. But he wanted to hear whatever he could about this doctor's daughter; it sounded fascinating. He thought the phrase "poor sod" suggested some unhappy tale and he was always up for one of those. Sort of thing that makes you glad you're you and not them. How morbid.
He then heard something about insurance and the dark-haired woman was going on about South America and a warmer climate.
She appeared to be planning a trip. He didn't care about this; he wanted to hear more about the person who had disappeared. The blonde occasionally turned to retrieve her cigarette, and then Melrose could pick up the drift.
"-this doctor's daughter?"
The woman facing Melrose nodded. "So it never ends for him . . . closure."
"I hate that word," said the blonde, with a little laugh. (Melrose was ready to marry her on the spot. Inwardly, he applauded. He hated the word, too.)
"All it means is that something's unended, unfinished. Why not just say that?"
The blonde was not in the mood for a semantic argument. "There never is, anyway," she said, slipping from the stool.
"What?" The dark-haired woman was puzzled.
"Closure. Everything remains unfinished."
The dark-haired woman sighed. "Perhaps. Poor Roger."
Roger Ryder, thought Melrose. When the blonde caught Melrose looking and listening, she gave him a rueful half smile. He pretended not to notice, though it would be difficult not to notice that mouth, that hair. Melrose paid for his beer and slid off the stool.
His daughter. Two years ago something had happened to her, and it hadn't been death. Death would have closed it. The girl had disappeared. Had something happened in South America? No, he thought that must be another story altogether. On the other hand, Ryder's daughter's disappearance-that had been in the papers.
But Melrose wouldn't have to search the Times.
Roger Ryder was Richard Jury's surgeon.
from The Grave Maurice by Martha Grimes, Copyright © September 2002, Viking Press, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.