The Barnes & Noble Review
Martha Grimes's 20th installment of her Richard Jury mystery saga (The Old Silent, The Old Contemptibles, et al.) finds the inquisitive New Scotland Yard detective superintendent with plenty of time on his hands after being put on indefinite leave of absence for making a procedurally improper decision.
Stopping by a tavern called The Old Wine Shades to knock back a few pints, Jury meets a well-to-do man named Harry Johnson, who recounts a bizarre story about how his friend's wife, son, and dog all suddenly vanished without a trace and how, nine months later, the dog inexplicably reappeared. During the course of a long conversation that includes hours of wild speculation about the friend's missing family (as well as digressions into such matters as quantum mathematics, superstring theory, Schrödinger's cat, Henry James and the power of a good story, and parallel worlds!), Jury becomes intrigued by Johnson's improbable tale. Then a woman resembling the vanished wife is found murdered, and Jury realizes that what he heard from Johnson is just the beginning of a sinister mystery.
Like a set of Russian nesting dolls, The Old Wine Shades is a brilliantly crafted story within a story within a story; with more tangents than a high school geometry textbook, this delightfully offbeat and sharp-witted installment of Grimes's popular series is highly recommended for any and all discerning fans of British whodunits à la Ruth Rendell and P. D. James. There is most definitely trouble afoot… Paul Goat Allen
Once the story darkens, as it does when the missing woman turns up dead, Jury goes off to interview the cagey country folk and preternaturally wise children who invariably show up in this series, along with the indispensable Melrose Plant and Jury's other eccentric friends. But this time, Grimes doesn't let these colorful cronies run away with the narrative, which delivers on its mysterious premise while celebrating the power of storytelling. Jury even suggests that stories are "what we live for, why we go on." When pressed on the point by Melrose ("Are you saying we live for stories?"), he responds, "Children do, don't they?" We do indeed.
The New York Times
Man walked into a pub." This line, delivered with a droll inflection by reader John Lee, is the perfect opening for Martha Grimes's latest entry in her Inspector Jury series. Harry Johnson enters the Old Wine Shades pub and recounts to Jury the strange tale of a mother and son who disappeared nine months ago, along with their dog, Mungo. At first Jury finds the story more amusing than ominous, but as more details are revealed his curiosity is piqued, and he feels compelled to investigate the disappearances. What he discovers is that nothing, including the agreeable Johnson, is what it seems. Grimes builds a captivating mystery with plenty of twists and quirky characters to keep the listener engaged, and Lee's controlled performance fits nicely with her eclectic, character-driven storytelling. Lee's characterizations are presented with a dignified, no frills aplomb, which isn't easy given that they include the inner thoughts of an autistic child and the dog, Mungo. In fact, the scenes featuring Mungo supply some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some of the novel's most intense suspense. Jury fans will not be disappointed. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 30). (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Grimes's 19th Richard Jury mystery is one of the most complex and entertaining in the series. Temporarily suspended for violating procedure, Richard encounters Harry Johnson in a pub and is told an intriguing story about a physicist's wife, his autistic son, and his dog disappearing while they were house hunting, only for the dog to reappear nine months later. Richard and his amateur sleuth friend Melrose Plant look into the disappearances and discover more and more puzzles. This multilayered psychological mystery is more serious-minded than some in the series, with frequent references to physicist Niels Bohr and Henry James, though still essentially entertaining. The dog, Mungo, is as fascinating as the humans and even takes over the narration at times. John Lee's reading style may be too arch for some, but it is especially fitting for the meetings between Melrose and his indolent, snooty friends. Highly recommended for all popular collections.-Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Supt. Richard Jury's 20th case begins as the shaggiest of shaggy-dog stories, moves through a critique of quantum mechanics and ends in a truly mystical realm. In a London pub, a stranger named Harry Johnson tells Jury (The Grave Maurice, 2002, etc.) a story that isn't really a story. Nine months ago, physics professor Hugh Gault lost his whole family when all three of its members-his wife Glynnis, their autistic son Robbie and their dog Mungo-vanished during the middle of a house-hunting trip to Surrey. Though Hugh hired detectives, there was no sign of any of them-until recently, when Mungo suddenly popped up. The story, as Harry points out, isn't complete because the riddle lacks an ending or an explanation, and Jury, his curiosity piqued to the point of obsession by the clues Harry teasingly doles out, can't supply them. Neither can his aristocratic friend Melrose Plant or the rest of his whimsical hangers-on, though they duly ponder the puzzle-Melrose even goes as far as taking a trip to Tuscany to meet the owner of one of the houses Glynnis was to visit-and ask questions. The answers, when they finally come, have less to do with the wheels of justice than with superstrings, Godel's incompleteness theory and Schrodinger's cat. Even fans who can't appreciate the passing strangeness of this truly special adventure will be won over by a precocious little girl and a dog of rare intelligence.