At the Man with a Load of Mischief, they found the dead body stuck in a keg of beer. At the Jack and Hammer, another body was stuck out on the beam of the pub's sign, replacing the mechanical man who kept the time. Two pubs. Two murders. One Scotland Yard inspector called in to help. Detective Chief Inspector Richard Jury arrives in Long Piddleton and finds everyone in the postcard village looking outside of town for the killer. Except for one Melrose Plant. A keen observer of human nature, he points Jury in the right direction: into the darkest parts of his neighbors' hearts....
©2013 Martha Grimes (P)2013 Simon & Schuster
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I was excited about revisiting - in audio - a series of books which I have so enjoyed over the years. In one way, I was not disappointed, because the performance by Steve West is quite good, and all the quirky characters I remembered are still there. The aristocrats, the wannabes, the shop-and-bar keepers.
But, on the whole, these characters have not aged particularly well. Although the "pub" title trademark remains interesting, "Aunt Agatha" and "Melrose Plant" now seem more the copies from older British mysteries that they actually are. There's a dated, self-conscious feeling here that is not as apparent in the original, classic series of Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Marjorie Allingham and, to some extent, Agatha Christie.
Is it possible that American authors really can't quite capture the traditional, cozy British who-done-it? Maybe - and I think I'd rather just remember the Jury/Plant series as something I really liked 25 years ago. No need to revisit.
"Love this series, but FYI"
I've just finished listening to book 13, and I have absolutely loved every one so far! The recurring characters and the relationships between them are very entertaining and often hilarious. I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries without all the stress.
The FYI part is this:
The first book in the series was published in 1981, and was contemporary fiction. Hard as it is for me to believe, 1981 was 33 years ago! I suspect, though, that the author never expected the series to take off and to still be writing the books all these years later. The main characters in the series are Richard Jury and Melrose Plant. I picture them in age as between 35-40. The thing is, I don't think they can ever get much older than that and have it all still work. However, time and technology continue to march on and, to keep the series contemporary, things like computers and cell phones have to come into play. Also, Jury having been a small child in WW2 was perfectly in line in 1981, but by now he would have to be elderly.
What I do is just mentally keep the characters in the same approximate age frame they started in, and ignore any references to the passage of time that the author inserts in the text. Just sort of let time and world events go by in the background, while the characters stay the same. There were enough comments in book 13 about the passage of time and people not changing after all these years, that I'm guessing the author was maybe poking a little fun at her predicament.
I'm awaiting the Audible release of the next book at the moment, but I hope that she hasn't done anything to blatantly age the characters in the rest of the books. I like things just the way they are. Once you know of and accept the time anomaly thing, it need not interfere with the enjoyment of the books. They are definitely worth a listen.
"I stumbled onto this series 20 years ago"
Waited and waited for it to come to audible, only her last was on audible and without having read the series people might not really have developed the fondness for Jury and Plant that develops when reading a series.
The books are witty and dry without being too graphic. Not as cutesy or silly as cozy mysteries tend to be; the gimmick is the inns so it doesn't seem as childish or staged.
These are not modern mysteries with psycho serial killers and ritual murders, just plain old fashioned murder with a little wit and sadness.
The only flaw is that after waiting soooo long, they picked the worst narrator. The dry humor is still there but he is so annoying it detracts from the overall enjoyment of the story.
"the next best thing to Christie and Sayers"
I'd been intermittently checking Audible for Martha Grimes titles, and finally they're here (or else I missed them when they first showed up...)
For someone who loves Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, this is the next best thing. It's got great, well-defined main characters with no frills and not too much pop psychology, it's got great plots and atmosphere (yeah, so what if the author is American and these are British village murders?) and a good sense of humor. So what's not to love?
I hope more titles come up. This is a great series.
"Hmmm. I'm not running to get the next book!"
I DID finish this cozy, but it left me cold. Nothing here to encourage me to rush off to purchase the next book. The characters were luke-warm and one or two I found to be downright annoying. I didn't find any humor here, either. The only redeeming factor was the narrator. No objectionable language or sexual situations.
"First Richard Jury Novel"
I wanted to like this book very much, and enjoyed it somewhat....thud. The English characters are eccentric and there is an underlying mischief and humor. The first two murders are colorful and unique. There is a lot of fun in this book.
My issue is that the solution to the mystery is something like an Agatha Christie plot. It is very, very far-fetched and has some of that smugness about a highly doubtful complex sequence with dead bodies that defies most logic. You may suspect the killer, but you will never understand the key detail that keeps the villain shielded...until the Sherlock Holmes-like final reveal. A reader gets the feeling that the characters' daily interactions are the thing and that the underlying motive of the mass killer is somewhat secondary. For that I give 4 stars...maybe 3 1/2. The narration is marvelous.
"Good but not great......"
Even though this novel is over 30 years old, it's the first time I've sampled any of Martha Grimes' books and so far I think they're good - but there's not much in this one that will make me rush to listen to the rest of the series. I've found I like the character-rich British mysteries more than American ones, and I guess I should have realized that even though these mysteries are set in small-town Britain, they're still written by an American and that will seep through. Too many of the players here seemed almost to be caricatures of themselves, or of a type. Not really my cup of tea, I guess.
"first book in a crime series"
First time author, Martha Grimes, who among other things once taught at the University of Iowa. The author early on was involved with poetry then at age 50 decided to embark on a crime series. This book is the first in the series and so far there over 20. The title of each book is named after a pub in England. This book and series is a bit different in that Grimes is an American author that writes crime thrillers set in England. She pokes fun of things British; the language and pronunciations, customs, royalty, the people, etc. The book had a bit of Sherlock Holmes and Watson in it using deductive reasoning. Her website describes her writing style as “literate, lyrical, funny, funky, discursive, bizarre”. I agree with the description although I admit I had to look discursive up in the dictionary. If you like this desciption of the author's books, you might want to give it a try.
"A new series to follow!!!"
I don't even know where to start, Im so excited about this series! Have to say the first 2 hours were rough.. Im not sure why. There was a lot to follow at the beginning and I think I was afraid it was going to be full of descriptions of characters I didn't know if I should be caring about or not. Somewhere right after the 2 hour mark the action picked up and I was hooked from there. I think also the narration took some getting use to. Steve west is awesome performing really unique voices for each character, and there are a ton, but his regular voice when narrating felt a bit stiff and flat for the first half of the book. I don't know if he got more in to his groove or I just got use to him, but it all came together rather well by that point!
Martha Grimes is now one of my new favorites and Im so excited to have a new series to follow. The story was incredibly detailed and creative without being boring. I was hanging on every word instead of trying to force myself to follow along. Also, I loved the mystery being solved about an hour before the book was over, which left time to explain things and follow up with some of the main characters. I hate stories where everything is thrown at you the last 10 minutes and you're then left stunned with your mouth open in confusion.
For me, this is the most well written mystery I've come across yet, even in comparison to Agatha Christie, who is brilliant but tends to wrap her stories up rather quickly at the end. I urge you to give this a try if you're considering. Its a great mystery with more wit than cheekiness, an incredibly talented narrator, and a genuinely good hearted detective who you'll quickly grow fond of... dare I say even crush by the end.
"A Good Old Fashion Mystery"
Yes, at first I was confused, 2 men died in two seperate places
In the beginning yes, until I figured out who did the murders. However I really could not figure out why.
I never listened to Steve West before but, after this novel I did order more Martha Grimes novels.
His portrayal of Lady Agatha Ardry, was exquisite. Like Jury you wanted to strangle her for her constant interference .
When Jury interaction with the brother and sister, James and James. Another Jury interveiwed Ruby Judd's family their cold and aloof treatment of their daughter
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