A Little Mystery Is a Good Thing: The Black Cat by Martha Grimes

Picture this: Two murders, both committed against women who aren’t who they appear to be—women who die dressed in evening dresses unbefitting their station in life and wearing evening shoes that would cost the average person several months’ wages. Add one dog and three cats, that are also not who they appear to be, and one little girl (purely around to antagonize the protagonist), and there you have, in a nutshell, the 22nd installment of Martha Grimes’ Inspector Jury series, The Black Cat.

Martha Grimes is an American author. Although she does not live in London (she lives in Washington DC and New Mexico) and does not frequent the public houses (pubs) her books are named after, she has the settings and societal interplay down pat, so her locations and character interactions are believable.

With her Inspector Jury series, Grimes has managed to take the formulaic single, jaded, brooding, crime detective we’ve come to expect and given him a group of people who keep him grounded and living outside his head. They are not fellow detectives, they are regular people who flutter around his life, but they mean something to him. They are his makeshift family, and they depend on him, and whether he realizes it or not, he depends on them. That interdependence is what lifts him from the stereotypical loner to a man who aspires to overcome his past tragedies and live a meaningful lifeblack cat beyond himself.

Detective Wiggins is Jury’s partner at Scotland Yard, with whom Jury has only a working relationship. Melrose Plant, a present day nobleman, is Jury’s friend and right hand when it comes to working his cases outside the bounds of The Yard. Plant’s small circle of friends work into Jury’s life as well, but mostly as comic relief and as a spotlight for the reader on the class differences still existing in English society. Carol Ann, the twenty-something young woman who lives above Jury’s flat in London, is his nosy but well meaning neighbor who keeps the practical side of his life afloat. And then there is the ever enchanting and somewhat elusive Dr. Phyllis Nancy, the Medical Examiner Jury works beside, once slept with and now pines after, as they dance around the obvious need they have for each through the entire series.

Grimes’ novels are not your typical crime/mystery novel. They fall under the mystery subgenre of ‘cozies,’ because their plots are character driven, and Grimes imparts no real gore in the descriptions she makes of the crime scenes Jury encounters during his investigations. Because she drives her stories through her characters and their relationships, her Jury character is always a bit different at the end of his latest endeavor than he is at the beginning. Case in point: In book #21, Dust, she gives Jury a love interest, someone he believes could be the woman he marries. (Just to clarify, Jury is not a womanizer and doesn’t easily give his heart away.) By the end of that book, Grimes has granted Jury happiness for the first time in a long time, only to change his life dramatically through a terrible turn of events. In Black Cat we see Jury discover what kind of person he is as he copes with the drama confronting him from book #21.

Martha Grimes has a long term hit with her Inspector Richard Jury series. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the release of installment #23.

Cheers for now!

Chrinda Jones

What is your favorite book series? What is it about this series that keeps you coming back?

4 thoughts on “A Little Mystery Is a Good Thing: The Black Cat by Martha Grimes

    • Hello Susan! Thank you for your lovely comment. You’re so sweet. I hope you think about reading this series, I don’ t think you’ll regret it.

  1. This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would wantHaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

    • Hello and thanks so much for leaving such a kind comment. It appears you’re a mystery/crime fan as well. Glad to see the post shared something new with you about the genre. If you’re looking for good crime and mystery reading, leave a comment, I’m sure we can help you find something you would enjoy. Thanks again!

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