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The Case Has Altered

The Case Has Altered

4.4 5
by Martha Grimes

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The sun, smoking behind a haze of cloud, threw off a light of burnished pewter. Mysteriously lit, it was as if the watery, colorless land refused drabness, stood determinedly against dimishment. This is a landscape that can easily deceive, a landscape that volunteers nothing, as if to say, You’re on your own, mate—much like the habitues of the only pub for


The sun, smoking behind a haze of cloud, threw off a light of burnished pewter. Mysteriously lit, it was as if the watery, colorless land refused drabness, stood determinedly against dimishment. This is a landscape that can easily deceive, a landscape that volunteers nothing, as if to say, You’re on your own, mate—much like the habitues of the only pub for miles around called The Case Has Altered.

The Lincolnshire fenlands are the right setting for Richard Jury’s latest case, a mystifying double murder. The body of one woman is found on the wash; another woman lies floating in a canal in Windy Fen. Both women are connected with Fengate: Dorcas Reese, a servant; Verna Dunn, the louche ex-wife of the owner, Max Owen, a man with a passion for antiques. So when the principal suspect turns out to be Jenny Kennington, a woman Jury has long loved, he decides he needs someone inside Fengate, someone who can impersonate an antiques expert…

Editorial Reviews

Superintendent Richard Jury is called to the fen country to rescue his former lover Lady Jennifer Kennington -- who doesn't mind lying to him as well as to the local police -- from two charges of murder, in an intricate, atmospheric puzzler that ranks with Grimes's best.

—Tom Leitch

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Grimes is dazzling in this deftly plotted, 13th Richard Jury mystery (the last was Rainbow's End, 1995). Psychologically complex and muted in tone, with the characters' elliptical relationships reflecting the setting of England's dreamlike fen country, the novel also boasts Grimes's delicious wit. Most of her eccentric regulars are here: detective-manque Melrose Plant, Lord Ardry; his infuriating Aunt Agatha; hypochondriac Sgt. Wiggins; pompous antiquarian Marshall Trueblood. Jennifer Kennington, the woman whom Jury has loved, mainly from afar, for 10 years is the prime suspect in two murders. One victim is her cousin, Verna Dunn, with whom she was a guest at the antiques-strewn estate of Verna's ex-husband, Max Owen, and his second wife; the other is the Owens' servant, Dorcas Reese. The Lincolnshire police haven't requested Scotland Yard's help, so Jury, unofficially allying himself with the enigmatic local chief inspector, persuades Melrose to investigate by visiting the Owens as an antiques appraiser. Jury's breakthrough in identifying the real murderer follows a chat with a signature Grimes character, a knowing, elfin child named Zel whose companion is a nondescript dog. In a comic subplot, Melrose's litigious aunt sues a used furniture dealer, claiming she was injured tripping on an antique bedpan in front of the shop and then attacked by the shopowner's terrier. The title, as always, the name of a pub, holds the clue. After Jury's last two disappointing appearances, both set in America, Grimes brings him triumphantly back where he belongs.
Library Journal
Grimes returns with another Richard Jury mysterythis time, Jury must solve the murders of two women found in the misty fensbut now she's with a new publisher.
Kirkus Reviews
"The worst things happened to Jury's women," muses his friend Melrose Plant all too accurately. The victim this time is Supt. Richard Jury's former lover Lady Jennifer Kennington, suspected first of shooting actress Verna Dunn, then two weeks later strangling Dorcas Reese, homely kitchen girl at Fengate, the residence of Verna's ex-husband Max Owen. Jury's first idea—prying Plant loose from his litigious aunt's nuisance suit against inoffensive secondhand-shopkeeper Ada Crisp to send him undercover to Lincolnshire as the antiques appraiser who'll help evaluate Max's treasures—yields lots of data about Max, his understanding wife Grace, his sculptor nephew Jack Price, and their neighbors Major Linus Parker and Peter Emery, his blind groundskeeper. But despite the data, there are precious few conclusions. And when Jury confronts Jenny directly, she simply admits an undeniable motive for killing Verna and expands on the lies she's already told the police. So it's on to the courtroom, where procedural fireworks await. As always with Grimes (Hotel Paradise, 1996, etc.), the pace is leisurely, at times maddeningly so; yet the endless repetitions of the case's central questions—what was Dorcas so sorry she'd listened to and done? why did she tell her trusted intimates she was pregnant when she wasn't? why were the two murders committed with different weapons?—actually deepen their mystery instead of dispelling it. Even the farcical subplot—that nuisance lawsuit back home—adds its counterweight to the Fen Country gloom to produce Grimes's best book in years.

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Dorcas hated the fens.

A no-man's-land once you got beyond the pub, whose cold windowpanes behind her glowed like a row of golden fingerprints, and the only other lights were those of the occasional car moving along the A17. The endless monotony of the fens was bad enough in daylight, and worse at night because at night it got really spooky. Dorcas kept looking over her shoulder, seeing nothing but a vast black flatness and the tiny lights of the pub.

It was a little after eleven o'clock on a cold February night, mid-February it was, that found Dorcas walking across Wyndham Fen. She set her feet down in the sopping field, made spongier by the incessant rains. She should never have worn these heels, inch and a half they were, but they made her legs look ever so much better. She was convinced that there must be quicksand about, despite people's telling her this was marshy land, the fens, and though it might be soggy and spongy, it wouldn't suck you down. There was always a first time, she thought.

The pub was well behind her, probably a half-mile, its lights still visible. Now they looked as far off as stars, and nothing lay between her and the rim of the sky, black and blank. She especially hated Wyndham Fen because of the tourists who came into the pub and asked stupid questions. It gave her a kick to give them stupid answers sometimes and watch as the puzzlement grew on their faces. It was really a laugh how many tourists were actually eager to be separated from their two or more quid to have the experience of seeing a fen as it used to be hundreds of years ago. God, wasn't it bad enough to see it now without pining over what it was? It was like her own mum poring over old photos, snaps of them all at Skegness, places like that.

The dark shape of the Visitors' Center drifted like a ship on the unsteady ground. The fens lent everything around a curiously breathing life--objects appeared bigger, trees grew larger, the spire of a distant church spiked higher, stumps engorged. Bright light would return these objects to their natural shapes, but even in the light of day the overwhelming flatness of the fens could make what appeared in the distance more distant, and at the same time, things that were closer looked closer still. It was as if there was never a time, day or night, when you could depend on the evidence of your own eyes.

Her shoes sank in the spongy ground. There was peat beneath the grass and for some reason that always made her feel the ground was not secure. As if the ground itself floated on a raft through fog.

The Visitors' Center was the only building around, so the only place that offered cover. She was making her way to its porch, thinking it a very odd place to choose for a meeting. Why couldn't they have just as easily met inside where there was warmth and light? The only light here was her torch spiking the ground, and she soon turned that off. Looking to her right where the boardwalk began to weave its way through the canals, she remembered how she hated water, had done ever since she'd been left in the tub alone as a tyke and slipped under and almost drowned because her tiny hands couldn't get purchase, couldn't find anything but slippery enamel--the very thought made her sick, even now. When the family went to Skegness every summer, she wouldn't get any closer to the sea than halfway down the strand where she'd sit with her private hoard of film mags and sexy novels. She'd taken off the original dust jackets and replaced them with others. They were now entertaining her cloaked as Jane Eyre, Adam Bede, David Copperfield. Mum and Da would think that was what she was reading. "Improving your mind are you, Dorcas? Good girl, just don't go getting too smart to get a paying job. Hah hah," her father would say. Not much of a laugh her father wasn't, but at least he wasn't always at her like the ones some of her friends had.

One of these books, David Copperfield it was, she was supposed to have read in school. She never finished it. The boys at the comprehensive seemed to have read Dickens for the sole purpose of taunting poor Dorcas, who had, at age thirteen, already something of a reputation. The boys had quickly put to use a slightly revised version of Barkis's message to Nurse Peggotty, which became in their mouths: "Dorcas is willin', Dorcas is willin'." She pretended she couldn't be bothered, but the taunt stung, and her reputation gained momentum with no help from Dorcas. The primary reason that Dorcas was willing was because she wasn't pretty; she had nothing that would attract men except for being willing. And that had gone right round the comprehensive like wildfire. Dorcas hated Charles Dickens.

For more than twenty years she'd been inwardly raging about her looks, not one feature she could be proud of except maybe for her teeth, but did any man ever tell a girl he loved her teeth? Not likely. And her shape didn't make up for her face, either. Lying on the warm sands of Skegness she was painfully aware that the spandex of her bathing suit was girdle-tight and showed the rills and ridges around her middle. Her hair was rusty-red and stiffish, like one of the scouring pads she used for dishes. The only color in her round face came from the freckles that almost covered it.

Well, her da couldn't accuse her of not working, not with her two jobs, at the house and at the pub. Of course, if he knew why she was working two jobs, wouldn't he be surprised? She'd already got her "going away" outfit: a washed-silk brownish gold suit that made her eyes look more honey-colored than just plain brown--worse than brown, a silt-color, muddy brown.

As she hobbled along the path--she really shouldn't have worn these shoes--she felt the burden of her plain looks lift a little, for they hadn't done her any harm in the last analysis; they were not important. She had found someone who could see her inner beauty. For Dorcas had always been convinced that here she shone.

She walked up the few steps, her feet killing her, and at the top took off her shoes and knocked off the mud. With shoes dangling from her fingers, she stood and looked out over Wyndham Fen and sighed. Here was history. She thought about that with absolutely no enthusiasm. Back in school she had been forced to go with her classmates to hear a boring lecture about how the fens were drained. And other boring details about the Levels. Did anybody really care except for the people who grew all of those acres of tulips and daffs?

What she was looking out at--except she couldn't see with the torch off--was what Wyndham Fen had looked like a hundred years before. Or was it a thousand? How could a person remember all that history? Then they'd drained all of the fens--she was unclear as to who "they" were, the Vikings maybe? No, that was too long ago. That Dutch yob, Vanderbilt? No, he was that American billionaire. Vander ... Van Der-something? Anyway, he'd got this idea one fine day that you could make the fens produce crops and so forth if you went and drained them. This was good news she supposed if you wanted to be a farmer, maybe the dullest job in the world, but there it was, there's men liked it. Then after they drained the whole of Lincolnshire, nearly, someone else--the National Trust, she guessed--got the idea that it would be nice to have at least one of the fens looking the way the fens had looked before. Why, she couldn't imagine. So they de-drained this one where the Center was. Flooded it back or something with water. Dorcas stood there with her shoes dangling from her fingers thinking, My God, look at all the trouble for nothing. Bugger all, it was a bigger waste of time even than sixth form had been. Anyway, you can't bring things back the way they were.

That was a deep thought for Dorcas, and this pleased her, for she didn't much like thinking. She meant to file it away to repeat when the two of them were talking. He'd be pleasantly surprised to know he was going to marry a woman who was good in bed and a good cook and a thinker of deep thoughts. She stood in the frigid mid-February air absently humming and wishing another deep thought would come her way. Maybe she should go read David Copperfield again.

She wrapped her heavily sweatered arms about her. She chided herself for not wearing a coat because the sweater was prettier and the coat was black and awfully old. She shivered but not from the cold this time. No, she refused to think about the dead woman. She would not think about her, would not name her name, not even in the privacy of her own mind; she would set her aside. If she were nameless then she would lose her power to disrupt and unnerve. The police would or would not take care of that; they'd talked to everyone at the house, her included, till she was blue in the face.

Dorcas hunched her shoulders and huddled down into her heavy sweater and looked out over the dark tangle of trees and tall grasses and canals that was the old fen. She'd rather save her two quid, ta very much, for her trousseau or a good cookery book.

She heard a sound behind her, a creaking board. And then the arms encircled her waist. Romantic was her first thought. Something's wrong, was her second thought, and she barely had time for the third before she felt the breath being squeezed out of her, not by hands but by a soft, silky thing tightening round her throat. For a few moments she tried to claw it away as she opened her mouth to scream, but there was no voice to do it.

Dorcas ain't willin'. Dorcas ain't


Chief Inspector Arthur Bannen of the Lincolnshire police was in his late fifties, but looked ten years younger. His age was as enigmatic as the rest of him. If he resented Scotland Yard's turning up in Lincolnshire, he didn't show it. He was a man so soft-spoken one might wonder if anything could excite or harrow him. He said what he said with a smile, a small one, even a hurt one sometimes, as if it pained him his listener didn't quite agree. He was presently engaged in folding a length of paper accordion style, like a map.

"We haven't asked for your help, Mr. Jury," said Bannen, finally, but in a perfectly friendly way, while snipping away at the folded paper with his scissors. His feet were up on the edge of his desk, giving the impression of lethargy. Jury thought he was probably anything but lethargic.

"I know you don't need mine. I'm asking for yours."

They were discussing the murder of a guest who'd been staying at a small estate some forty miles away, called Fengate.

Bannen started cutting the paper carefully with scissors and, when he turned his attention to Jury, apparently found Jury the less interesting and turned back to his cutting. "I see. Well, then, how can I help you?" He didn't sound enthusiastic.

"From what I've heard, Lady Kennington's role in all of this is only--peripheral."

"If you mean by that she's on the fringe, or, as they say, `out of the loop,' I'd say, no, she's definitely in the loop." Bannen smiled slightly, as if delivering this news was not unpleasant. He continued cutting tiny triangles out of the paper.

"You're not saying that she's a suspect, are you?"

Bannen's eyes were a mild and unengaging shade of gray, the color of the brackish water in the drains Jury had passed on his trip from London. "Everyone's a suspect who was present at the time."

"I expect I'd use the word `witness.'"

"Use whatever word you like," Bannen said pleasantly, continuing to snip his design into the strip of paper. "She had opportunity; she and the Dunn woman were outside when the others were inside the house. Add to that, Jennifer Kennington and Verna Dunn were quarreling. Add to that your friend Lady Kennington was apparently the last to see the victim alive. After she'd left the Dunn woman, Jennifer Kennington was quite by herself, taking a walk." He paused, considering. "Or so she says." He snapped the scissors a few times, like crocodile jaws, and looked coolly at Jury. "Now if you were I, Superintendent, would you place Jennifer Kennington out of the loop?" Slowly, Bannen shook his head. "I don't think so." Snip.


In the dream, Jenny was moving across the fen; others joined her, forming a procession. He heard the barely audible bells of a censer at a service in Lincoln Cathedral.

The telephone was next to his ear. Jury knocked it over groping for it. In his attempt to shake himself from sleep and retrieve it, he felt he was gulping down great droughts of air. His chest hurt, ached. A coronary? In a Lincoln B & B? If he was on his way out, he preferred to go in his own digs in Islington with Mrs. Wassermann and Carole-anne teary-eyed at his bedside. At last his groping hand found the receiver. "Yes?"

"Bannen. Thought you'd never answer. You still sleeping? I've been up for hours."

Jury gritted his teeth. "Good for you. But what's taxing your Lincolnshire police at six A.M.?"

"Get your skates on and I'll take you somewhere interesting."

"Where would that be?" Jury was rubbing what felt like glass dust from his eyes.

"Wyndham Fen."

"Where's that?"

"I can pick you up in twenty minutes. Be ready."

"I'll be ready." This fell on empty air, as Bannen had already hung up.

The bedside clock stubbornly refused to advance its hands to a decent hour. It was six-ten on this February morning and dark as the grave.


Jury hadn't expected they'd be driving forty miles southeast toward Spalding. But that's what they had done. "National Trust Property," Bannen had told him and not much else.

At seven-thirty in the morning, Wyndham Fen was steeped in gray silence, except for the occasional hoot of an owl or saberlike rattle of the tall reeds in its narrow canals. Crystal cobwebs hung between post and rail of the boardwalk; out in the distant pastures, the rime-caked sheep looked as if they were dressed in glass coats. Morning might have been the time when the fens were most picturesque; Wyndham Fen would have been, except for the body.

She was lying face upward in one of the canals, around her neck a blue bracelet of skin that told the manner of death--she'd been garroted. Floating there, her body moving gently, she was surrounded by rush grass and water violets, and Jury thought of the Burne-Jones painting of Ophelia. But unlike the beautiful Ophelia, this young woman was anything but pretty. Her face was engorged and blackened with blood; the eyes and tongue protruded. But he could tell, even before this disfigurement, she probably hadn't been pretty. The face would have been pudgy, the body more so. He bet she hadn't had many chances in her short life and now she'd have none at all. She might have bloomed later in life, but there would be no later life for her.

Bannen walked back along the narrow boardwalk that spanned the canal to consult with one of his men. A dozen cars and a couple of vans were pulled up near the small building which served as a tourist center, a place to disseminate brochures and pamphlets about the fens. Police who'd been in the cars were now fanned out over the spiky, frozen grass and the dirt road.

It was cold; Jury shivered. He wasn't dressed for a February morning in the Lincolnshire fens. Jury couldn't take his eyes off the girl floating in the water. Bannen returned with the medical examiner, who set about getting his bag open. Jury thought he was probably not on the payroll of the constabulary, but was a simple country doctor.

Bannen rocked back slightly on his heels and said, "Dorcas Reese." He sighed and puffed out his cheeks.

"Did you know her?"

"I knew her slightly. She was housemaid and vegetable cook at Fengate."

Jury stared at him, shocked.

Bannen frowned as the medical examiner directed the removal of Dorcas Reese's body from the water. "You couldn't do that in situ, could you?" When the doctor gave him a look, Bannen added, "No, I expect not." He sighed. These provincials.

Jury was dismayed by Bannen's apparent sanguinity. "You're saying that this is the second death connected with that house."

"Um. Yes, it is, isn't it?" Bannen was still looking down at the water closing over the place where Dorcas Reese had floated. Bladderwort and water violets swayed on their delicate antennaelike stems. "She should have been looked at where she lay." Bannen's tone was disapproving, as if it were really difficult to get good help these days. "Strange, isn't it?" he said, ambiguously. They were hoisting the body onto the board for the doctor's examination. Bannen walked round the body, studying it, exchanging a few words with the doctor.

Back with Jury, he said, "He thinks it was a length of material, a [Illegible] perhaps. She was garroted. Beyond dumping her in the canal--or she could simply have fallen in after death--no attempt was made to hide her.'

Jury looked behind him at the Visitors' Center. "Is this open now; Middle of February? I expect in the warmer weather there's quite a lot of tourists."

"It's open, yes; that is, would be, if we weren't shutting it down." Bannen looked off into the distance. "The fen is about halfway between Fengate and--" He turned to look behind him. "--the pub where she worked some nights. Just away off there on the main road. Called the Case Has Altered.... Um." He ran his thumb across his forehead, reflecting

"You don't appear especially surprised." Jury thought Bannen probably never appeared surprised.

He turned to look at Jury out of his cool gray eyes, smiling slightly. "Oh, I'm surprised. Yes. I'm surprised she was strangled. Verna Dunn was shot."

"Killed by the same person, you mean?"

Bannen turned his head slowly to regard Jury. "This is Lincolnshire, not London. That we would have two murders in the space of two weeks, both targeting women from one house--" He shook his head. "Yes, it would be hard to think two killers were moving about the fens." He ran his finger under his collar as if the collar was too tight. "Usually it's the same method. When one's compelled to kill, it would be in such a way and by such means as would relieve some sort of anxiety... You think that's funny?"

"You sound like a psychiatrist, Chief Inspector. I expect I don't believe much in solving murders with mind-games. Basically, it's all plodding--" Jury caught himself, thinking, My God, I'm beginning to sound like Chief Superintendent Racer: "It's one foot in front of the other, police work is, Jury; it's plodding, Jury, not your slippery-minded conundrums...." And here he was with this detective chief inspector, whom he hardly knew, and who had, clearly, solved cases in just the way he said--or he wouldn't be saying it. Why was Jury adopting this condescending manner?

Yet Bannen didn't appear to take offense. Perhaps he thought there were more important things to think about. He looked around him at Wyndham Fen. "It was all like this once." Bannen looked at the ground, at the wet grass and the scarves of silver cobwebs stretched across it. With his foot he separated the tall reeds. A field mouse skittered off. "I'm driving along to the Wash now, to have another look. I expect you might like to see it."

Jury was surprised by the invitation. "Yes. I certainly would like to." He wondered if Bannen were, indeed, soliciting the help of Scotland Yard. The Wash had been the site of the first murder.

"There's a public footpath that borders this part of the fen, and she probably took that because it goes right past Fengate." He turned his head to the tree above them, where starlings whicked upward from the branches and knit a black pattern across the whitening sky, then vanished in the seconds it took to mark their flight. Bannen watched them. "Always makes me feel rather sad, the flight of birds." Then he continued talking about the footpath. "On the other end, it passes the Case Has Altered. The Owens were surprised she had this job moonlighting. Is that what they call it? Moonlighting?" He smiled. "Pretty word." Bannen scratched his neck again, seeming to afford this point as much deep thought as any other that had come up that day.

They turned from the drainage ditch and made their way back along the boardwalk to the small car park.

Bannen said, "My sergeant is down with some godawful allergy. He's violently allergic to whatever the stuff is that comes off the alder and hazel trees."

Jury smiled. "Your sergeant would get on with my sergeant like a house afire.",

"Oh? Is he allergic to the stuff?"

"He's allergic to all stuff."


You can see the difficulty," said Bannen, with his characteristic gesture of rubbing a thumbnail across his brow. As if he'd spent the last two weeks seeing the difficulty.

Jury could believe it. They stood together on the saltings, looking out over that part of the Lincoln-Norfolk coast called the Wash. The public footpaths only went so far, stopping before the seawall. They had walked farther--up over the seawall and down again. Bannen had said there was no danger here of quicksand, as there was much farther out. Like an interior shoreline, the saltings, composed of mud and silt, stretched to meet sand that formed the protective barrier between land and sea. Bannen had pointed out the narrow, choked end of the River Welland where it ran no wider than a stream, into the waters of the North Sea.

There were a number of "danger" areas, legacy of the war. "Mines," said Bannen. "The Wash is littered with them." He pulled the collar of his windbreaker tighter. "This is where we thought the invasion would come." He nodded toward the North Sea. "There were gun platforms out there, big things, like oil rigs, garrisons with heavy artillery. Still there, some of them."

Jury looked at him, speculatively. "'We'? You weren't in that war, surely. You must have been a kid."

Bannen smiled. "I was, but old enough to remember how the beaches were mined, and we weren't to get near them." They stood in silence for a minute. Then Bannen said, "Difficult. Our M.E. put Verna Dunn's death down to between ten the night of February first to one A.M. the morning of the second, Sunday. Though she wasn't found until afternoon. So the body'd been lying here in all of this muck. Hellish cold and windy. Brutal." He made it sound as if Verna Dunn had been alive to suffer through this exposure. "She might not have been found at all if the sands had shifted a certain way. They do, you know. We're still finding wrecks, hulls of ships. Over on Goodwin sands they found the propeller of one of the Sword bombers. Sand covered it up for all of these years."

"You think that was her killer's intention? To bury the corpse?"

"I would do, only it's a bit iffy. He might have been counting on high tide. Spring tide's twice as high, and if you noticed the seawalls behind us"--Bannen hooked his thumb back toward the walls--"that's one of the reasons for them. Neap tide--low tide--comes twice a month and the moon was in third quarter that night. It's the pull of the moon ..." Bannen grew contemplative.

Jury held up his hand, palm out. "You've lost me."

"One simply has to look at the tide chart. I did. The killer might have been planning on high tide, the tides and the sand. But he must have miscalculated. Tide wasn't all the way in when the body was found." He rubbed his thumbnail across his forehead. "That's the trouble with murder, wouldn't you say? Counting on the moon?"

Depressed as he was, Jury wanted to laugh. "Somehow I can't imagine Jenny Kennington counting on the moon. And the thing you seem to be forgetting is that counting on it implies a great deal of calculation, not impulse."

Bannen smiled slightly. "Oh, I'm not forgetting, no."

"Who found the body?"

"Coastguard. Otherwise, God knows when she'd have been discovered. I mean this isn't Skegness by a long chalk. As I've said, this area was heavily mined in the war and a lot of mines went missing. Shells, too. The danger areas are clearly marked. Nobody'd be strolling along the Wash for the pleasure of it. It was quite deliberately chosen." Bannen paused. "I narrowed time-of-death down a little more because I think it's quite a reasonable assumption to say she must have been shot between ten-thirty Saturday night and twelve-thirty early Sunday morning. It was close to one A.M. when the gardener said he'd seen her car parked at the end of the driveway, and it would have taken at least fifteen minutes for whoever drove to get back. No one heard the car return." Bannen sighed.

"No one at Fengate called when she didn't come back to the house with Jenny Kennington?" Jury frowned.

"Oh, I expect someone would have done, only, you see, they thought she'd simply taken it into her mind to drive off, or even drive back to London. Since she wasn't with Kennington, they just made that assumption--that she'd driven off. She was like that, apparently, Verna Dunn. Very mercurial, very impulsive. And here she lay." Bannen bent down and scooped up another handful of silt. "You can imagine what it's like trying to find anything in this stuff. My men were down on hands and knees, must have gone over a good quarter mile. Well, you can't cover the whole area, I mean, look at it. A bullet could have traveled for half a mile down there."

Jury followed his gaze across the shining mud, starry with reflections from the weak sunlight. "Yes, I can see that. Wind doesn't help, either, does it?"

"Infernal banshee-winds." He dusted the shale from his hands and shoved them in his coat pockets. "We found a casing pretty much buried, one in the victim." He looked behind him. "Cartridge from a .22 rifle."

"Nothing else?"

"The shell, the gun, the car--? I'd say that's quite a lot."

"You mean you matched the bullet to a gun?" Jury was getting more anxious moment by moment. They did have a lot.

"Max Owen's. He's the owner of Fengate. Jennifer Kennington was the Owens' guest, as I've said."

Jury looked away, out to sea, said nothing.

"There are a surprising number of rifles standing about in the vicinity of Fengate. We gathered up four. Owen's, Parker's, Emery's--Peter Emery's a kind of groundskeeper for a Major Parker. Emery's blind but that doesn't mean someone else couldn't have used his rifle. So we got them all. Oh, and Jack Price even had one. He's an artist, a sculptor or something like that. Why would he need a rifle? And how they all managed to get licenses for these guns, I've no idea. You know how difficult it is. Except for Emery, of course, they're all fair shots, Parker especially."

"You haven't mentioned the women. Somehow, I can't see Jenny Kennington getting off a shot. I don't think she's ever handled a gun in her life."

"Afraid you think wrong, then. She used to go out with her husband occasionally, and Price along with them." Bannen studied the shifting expressions on Jury's face. "You didn't know she knew this man Price before?"

All Jury could muster for an answer was the briefest of headshakes.

Bannen pursed his lips, blew out breath in a soundless whistle. Mildly, he said, "You thought you knew her perhaps better than you knew her."

"Apparently." The Jenny he had fantasized about was a Jenny who, in awful trouble, blurted everything out. Well, why in hell hadn't she blurted it out? Because he was one more copper?

"... tire treads."

Jury had been only dimly aware that Bannen was speaking of the Porsche.

"It did narrow things down a bit. Verna Dunn's Porsche had distinctive treads. The car, with Dunn in it, presumably, and with a passenger--whom of course they assumed to be Jennifer Kennington, but she says not--at any rate, the car drove off about ten-twenty or so--which is when the Owens and Parker heard a car. Price had gone to his digs, his studio, he calls it, and heard nothing."

Jury hunched down in his coat, wishing they could leave this place. The water was lead gray, and looked just as heavy. The sensation Jury felt in his chest was like descriptions he'd heard of heart attacks, or the premonition of one. The intractable wind, the sand, shale, and mud served only to remind him of his powerlessness. But he went doggedly on, trying to convince Bannen--or himself--that Jenny Kennington was the wrong suspect. "You assume Verna Dunn had a passenger. But you don't know that."

"If she didn't, then how did the Porsche get back to Fengate?"

The question was rhetorical. Of course, he was right. Jury said, more to fill the alien air with words than anything else, "But now there's this Reese woman dead. How can you link Jennifer Kennington to that? Was she here?"

"She went back to Stratford-upon-Avon on the Tuesday--that would have been the fourth--after Verna Dunn was murdered. Stratford, of course, is only a two-hour drive from here."

What he implied was not lost on Jury, who had no answer.

"Seen enough?"

To last the rest of my life, Jury thought, looking across the Wash and to the North Sea. On the horizon, a black ship hung motionless.

"You can see the difficulty," said Bannen, again, running his thumb across his forehead.

Meet the Author

Bestselling author Martha Grimes is the author of more than thirty books, including twenty-two Richard Jury mysteries. She is also the author of Double Double, a dual memoir of alcoholism written with her son. The winner of the 2012 Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award, Grimes lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Brief Biography

Washington, DC and Santa Fe, NM
Date of Birth:
May 2, 1931
Place of Birth:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
B.A., M.A., University of Maryland

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The Case Has Altered (Richard Jury Series #14) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This my second Martha Grimes book and I was not disappointed. I was not able to figure out the mystery. Kept me guessing until the end however, I wouldnt say that the figuring out the mystery part was the greatest enjoyment of the book, - it is the characterization. Ms. Grimes funny, interestingly eccentic characters are what make her books such a joy. I am looking forward to my next Richard Jury novel for the pleasure of getting together with Melrose, Agatha, Wiggins and Carole Ann! It is true what the critics have said 'If you read one you will want to read them all!) I am about to begin to!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The standing cast and stock characters are like a good pbs movie this is a low middle perhaps it is the fens a little damp and muddy this is the best of her series i understand the author is a team mother/son? Problem is everyones love life never resolve or have a happy ending did the last die or still in a coma.? classic english mystery though lives in usa but not a cozy more a "comfort food" read satisfying tasty carbos and butter stick to the ribs no low fat low sugar no salt buska