Monday, February 20, 2012

The Anodyne Necklace

Everyone needs a break, and I’m mixing in some mysteries with the romantic suspense. One author that I haven’t read before is Martha Grimes. Grimes is an American who writes British mysteries, and if there’s one thing I like, it’s the classic British mystery. So I’ve been working my way through her Inspector Jury/Melrose Plant series. Inspector Jury is from Scotland Yard, and finds himself getting called in to investigate various murders around the country. Melrose Plant is a Lord who gave up his title because he wasn’t interested in the whole aristocracy/House of Lords bit. In the first book in the series,The Man with a Load of Mischief a murder happens near Plant’s family home, and Jury is called in to investigate. The pair become buddies, and as Jury goes to investigate other murders, Plant motors out to help his pal. I just finished reading the third book in the series, The Anodyne Necklace. In this book, Jury is called out to investigate the murder of young woman in the Horndean Woods in the little village of Littlebourne. The woman is a stranger to the village and was found with the fingers of one hand chopped off. Jury has to figure out who the woman is and if the murder ties in with the other disparate things that seem to be going on: a young girl from the village who had her head bashed in while busking in the Underground in London, a jewelry robbery from one of the local landed gentry, and the accidental death of the person suspected of committing the robbery. Of course, Jury ties up all the loose ends and finds the murderer.

The book was a good deal of fun. I read through it very quickly, but I did have some problems with it. In The Anodyne Necklace, as well as with the second book in the series, The Old Fox Deceiv’d, an independent child has a key role in the mystery and the solution. The child in question this time is a girl, Emily Louise Perk. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know that many 10-year-old kids who are as enterprising and self-reliant as the kids in Grimes’ books. Emily Louise’s mother is nowhere to be found. The girl totally controls the whole village with her strong personality. No one from child services shows up to wonder what the girl is doing working or wandering the town late at night. The situations and characters are starting to feel very formulaic. I would hope that Grimes finds some way to change things up. The mystery is a good one. At first, I couldn’t think of any way Jury could tie all the crimes together, but he did. This book had a decidedly dark element with the attack on young Katie O’Brien, who was left in a life threatening coma, and a threat to Emily Louise. The characters in the village are interesting, especially Polly Praed, a mystery writer who plots the murders of the annoying Bodenheim family, the leading family of Littlebourne. I did sort of suspect whodunit, but started to doubt myself as the story continued. I’ve just started the next book in the series,The Dirty Duck, so the formulaic bits of Grimes’ style aren’t annoying me yet!

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