Monday, May 16, 2011
THE MAN WITH A LOAD OF MISCHIEF by Martha Grimes
Wry humor is what made Martha Grimes' The Man with a Load of Mischief a good book for me.
Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Richard Jury and his friend Melrose Plant investigate what seem to be a series of murders tied to local pubs in and around Long Piddleton.
Along the way, Jury meets a wide array of characters the most interesting of which is Lady Agnes, a displaced American who claims her title through marriage.
Agnes complicates matters by investigating the murders, by criticizing Jury to Jury's incompetent superiors, and by manipulating everyone but Jury.
Jury learns the unique meaning of the names of many local pubs. He also comes to learn that the staging of the murders is itself a clue.
For me, the story seemed typical, one of those stories you don't want to think too much about or it won't hold up. But the people were a hoot.
I have no way of knowing whether this is the case, but just to read it, I'd expect this book and others like it are at the root of the Canadian book that brought me back to novels like this--Louise Penny's Bury Your Dead. I saw so many similarities in the two books: their wonderful characters, their unique settings, the overall character of the stories themselves.
Good stories have character, special qualities that make them unlike other stories you've read. In Bury Your Dead I will always remember the old poet (I think her name was Ruth) and her dressed-up duck. I'd never read about anyone like that before.
To a lesser extent, that's the way it was with Agnes and some other characters in The Man with a Load of Mischief.
I'm late to the game. Those who like traditional British Scotland Yard stories have probably long-ago read this book, but if, for some reason, you missed it, you might want to try it now.