The Black Cat
Review: Detective Superintendent Richard Jury's presence is specifically requested on the scene of the murder of a stylishly and expensively dressed young woman outside a country pub in Buckinghamshire — a woman who inexplicably remains unidentified two days after her death — in The Black Cat, the 22nd mystery in this series by Martha Grimes.
It isn't until the woman's aunt reports her missing that Jury has a name: Mariah Cox. But even her aunt doesn't recognize the body of her niece, a librarian engaged to a local flower vendor, who she says would never have made herself up that way. "Mariah didn't like dealing with the wide world," she says. "She kept herself to herself." But clearly she didn't, as Mariah led a second life that she kept secret, one in which she was known as Stacy Storm, a high-priced escort. When another escort and then a third is later murdered, Jury must find the evidence that connects them to each other … and ultimately to their killer.
Grimes takes a rather leisurely approach to the murder mystery in The Black Cat. No one, least of all Jury, seems in too much of a rush to solve the case of the murdered woman with a dual identity. A great deal of narrative (and investigative) time is spent on shoes, $1000 pairs of Jimmy Choos, Manolo Blahniks, and red-soled Christian Louboutins. True, a heel print is found at the scene of the crime — an important clue? — but the topic is revisited far too often … though Jury seems incongruously fascinated by the subject.
The author also includes several chapters from the point of view of a number of anthropomorphic animals, more specifically a dog named Mungo, who has appeared in other Jury mysteries. Whether these chapters are intended to be merely whimsical or simply transitional, while amusing, they add little value to the story.
The identity of the killer won't come as a surprise to most readers, but how Jury cleverly pieces the puzzle together — sentient cats and dogs notwithstanding — is nicely handled. The Black Cat is not on the same level as the earliest books in the series, but it will likely satisfy most fans.
Acknowledgment: Plesser Holland Associates provided a copy of The Black Cat for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Black Cat: England
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The Black Cat by Martha Grimes — A Richard Jury Mystery
Publication Date: April 2010
List Price: $25.95