The Old Success by Martha Grimes: A review

I had thought that Martha Grimes was finished with her Richard Jury mysteries. Then I ran across a note in one of the book review sections that I read about this book that was published this year. It is the twenty-fifth in a series that has been running since 1981. Since I had read all the previous twenty-four, it seemed incumbent on me to read this one, too.

The thing about Richard Jury and all his posse of fellow characters that readers have come to know over the years is that they never age. When the series started way back in the prehistorical days of the '80s, Jury and his sidekick and best friend Lord Ardry, aka Melrose Plant, were dashing, devastatingly attractive, upper class, 40ish Englishmen. Now, almost forty years later, they still appear to be dashing, devastatingly attractive, upper class, 40ish Englishmen. If only I knew where to find their fountain of youth!

All of Grimes' well-loved characters appear in this tale. It starts when the murdered body of a Frenchwoman is washed up on the wild Cornish coast and Brian Macalvie, divisional commander of the Devon-Cornwall police is called to the scene. Macalvie, who is famous for his implacable pursuit of malevolent perpetrators and never giving up on a case, finds the scene perplexing and calls on his friend, Richard Jury, now apparently a superintendent with New Scotland Yard, for assistance. His call interrupts Jury having a drink with a retired legendary CID detective, Tom Brownell, who had a 100% clearance rate for his cases.

Jury goes to Cornwall to assist Macalvie, but in the days following the discovery of the first body, two more murders occur. The events are widely separated and appear to have no connection and yet superdetective Brownell intuits that there is a connection. And that there may also be a further connection to an earlier supposed suicide - that of Brownell's own daughter.

There are, of course, Grimes' iconic characters of cute and precocious children and animals involved, and, as always, Jury calls on his friend, Melrose Plant, who he deems a children/animal whisperer, to help him out in extracting information from the kids.

Frankly, the plot here grows a bit confused and hard to follow. I suppose it wasn't helped by the fact that I was distracted by preparations for Thanksgiving while I was reading. The book would probably best be read by sitting down with it, concentrating fully, and finishing it in one sitting. That never happens to me.

In addition to the regular characters mentioned here, there are many, many others in this book that mostly play cameo roles, but they serve only to increase the confusion rather than illuminating the plot. So, on the whole, this was not one of the stronger entries in this long-running series, but for her truly avid fans, I'm sure it feels like the gift of a visit from an old friend.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars  
      

Comments

  1. It is great feeling when a new book comes out that is part of a series one thinks is over. Plus, twenty six books is an impressive feat in and of itself.

    I also find it difficult to put a big bunch of consecutive time into reading.

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    1. I would love to be able to sit down in my favorite chair and read all day long. Unfortunately, life intrudes!

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  2. This may not be her best, Dorothy, but you inspire me to revisit the Martha Grimes mysteries. I hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving. P. x

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    1. I had an excellent Thanksgiving and I hope you did, too. There was much to be thankful for, including all the wonderful books I've read this year and all my faithful blogging friends, among whom I count you! Like most long-running series, this one has its highs and lows. This entry was rather mediocre but still worth a read.

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  3. Perhaps the fountain of youth would be found by being a character is such a series? Yesterday, after Thanksgiving was over, I read a whole book in one day. It is a glorious feeling!

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    1. I can't remember the last time I did that. No, actually, I can! It was Metamorphosis by Kafka.

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  4. That's so cool that you've read all the books in the Richard Jury series y Martha Grimes! 25 books is a lot of books in one series... so kudos to you for sticking through the entire series.

    I've never read anything by Martha Grimes, so she must be an excellent writer and one I'll have check out in more detail in the new year.

    So how do you feel about the characters not aging in a series that has been running for 40 years?? Do you think the characters should age over time or do you enjoy seeing them as the age they've always been?

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    1. I've been reading them for several years, though not as many as Grimes has been writing them. Their strong point is the characters. She's very good at conjuring up interesting and quirky characters.

      There are a couple of other series that I read, Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski books and Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch stories, where the main characters have aged over the years, not necessarily in real time but they are both now well past middle age. I think I prefer that approach.

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