Another Detective Superintendent Richard Jury mystery I completed a day or so ago. I’m really glad that I sleep alone – well, except for the cat – because me screaming NO! in the middle of someone else trying to sleep would have been disturbing, I think.
The Grave Maurice is a pub close to the London hospital where Richard Jury is recuperating from injuries suffered in the last outing. Stop reading here if you don’t want to know about the last book yet. Seriously. In this pub, Melrose Plant overhears a conversation he thinks will interest Jury.
Jury is suffering mightily from the ministrations of his nurse, Hannah Bell – or as Melrose Plant and Sergeant Wiggins call her – Hannibal. She chatters in his room, she refuses visitors and generally makes herself a pest.
Jury is finally released from the hospital and has a special mission. He’s not allowed to go back to work just yet, but his surgeon’s daughter was abducted two years before. There has been no ransom demand and everyone is starting to think she’s dead. Except a few – including Jury.
As the cover intimates, a great deal of this book is about horses. The doctor’s father runs a thoroughbred racing farm and Nell, the abducted daughter, lived with the grandfather and a cousin. She’s taken one night while sleeping with the horses and Jury decides to make the mystery of her disappearance a part of his recuperation.
As always Melrose Plant helps with the detection. In this instance, Jury asks him to go to the farm and snoop around. Because Plant is obviously of the idle rich aristocracy, Jury says he’ll get further than anyone else. Plant is only to nose around and ask questions about the purchase of horses, but being Melrose, and richer than God, he buys one. There are some pretty humorous thoughts running around in Plant’s head when the stable boss tries to get him to ride the thoroughbred. Needless to say, Melrose did have a pony – but riding this horse is a whole different story.
Martha Grimes’ writing gets better with each book. I can never tire of these. This one takes you from the hospital to a thoroughbred breeding farm through a despicable use of horses at another farm and on to the hunt. Jury spends a fair amount of time traveling and Plant gives him the run of his home, Ardry End, in which to crash and recover.
The mesmerizing qualities of Nell, even through an old photograph; the stories of races won and lost; the love of a stepson for his stepfather and niece – all of these elements bring the story to life. There is, once again, a penny that drops for Jury. More of a niggling recognition that something isn’t right than a penny drop. And there is the constant humor of the Long Piddleton crowd at the Jack and Hammer – Melrose Plant’s local pub and a place where Richard Jury is always welcomed. Ask them about Count Dracula when you stop by.