Friday, February 24, 2012

The Dirty Duck by Martha Grimes

The Dirty Duck is Martha Grimes' fourth entry in the Richard Jury series. I've been trying to read the series in order, and as I finish up a pair, I order replacements from the library. I'm very lucky to have such a good library system, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. In The Dirty Duck, Richard Jury is on vacation in Stratford-upon-Avon. Jury is hoping that he can meet Lady Jenny Kennington, whom he met in The Anodyne Necklace. Lady Kennington moved to Stratford-upon-Avon at the end of the last book. Melrose Plant is there too, with his Aunt Agatha and her American relations. There are also some other American tourists in Stratford-upon-Avon, touring with the Honeycut Tours. Of course, where Jury and Plant are, murder follows. First, Gwendolyn Bracegirdle gets herself slashed and stashed in a public toilet. She's found with a few lines of poetry written on a Shakespeare playbill. But it doesn't stop there. Little Jimmy Carlton goes missing. Then his step-sister is murdered, and as the tour moves to London, his step-mother is murdered in the same grizzly fashion. Both also have additional lines from the same stanza of poetry that's found on Ms. Bracegirdle. Is there a psycho killing folks, or is there a connection to the Honeycut Tours? Where's little Jimmy? Can Jury and Plant find the killer before anyone else is murdered?

So far, as I've been reading through the series, I find myself like the latest book better than the ones that preceded it. The Dirty Duck is the best of the four so far. Granted, the murders are fairly horrifying. The victims have their throats slit, and then are slit open to the waist. Of course, Grimes doesn't go into gross detail, but it's enough to set up some mental pictures. Again, we have the strong child character. This time, it's Jimmy, who finds himself kidnapped and not knowing what is going on. Of course, I don't want to give away the ending, but Jimmy shows a great deal of resourcefulness for a nine-year old. The only negative comment I have to make is that Jury and Plant have the worst luck of any characters I know in mystery literature. Lady Kennington, Jenny, leaves Stratford-upon-Avon before Jury can start a relationship with her, and Vivian Rivington, Plant's Ardry End neighbor, comes back from an extended stay in Italy with an Italian fiancé. Of course, she just happens to show up in Stratford-upon-Avon. Jury and Plant are in their 40s, attractive, and unable to get women? Really? Of course, they get the ones they don't want. Jury likes Vivian who likes Plant. What a tangled web! I am enjoying the Jury/Plant series, and if you like mysteries, you should definitely give them a try. I think they should be read in order because the characters and relationships appear to develop over the books.

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