The Old Success by Martha Grimes (Mystery Novel, November 2019).
Mystery writer Martha Grimes has more than 30 published books to her credit. The Old Success, her latest, is the 25th book about an ace British crime-solver named Richard Jury. With such an extensive series, one would expect a considerable back-story involving Inspector Jury being in evidence and that is so, with references to previous cases interwoven into the narrative seamlessly. Another expected factor in such a long-running set of books is that a set of recurring supporting characters is likely to be developed. Again, this is so here. In this novel, Jury is going to need help from quite a few such characters because he (and his assorted cohorts) will eventually find themselves investigating not just one puzzling murder, but three–each taking place in a different location, committed weeks apart and in different manners, yet all prove to be interconnected.
First, a young French woman is found on a storm-tossed beach in the fairly isolated Scilly Islands, off the coast of Cornwall. Later, a man is shot to death while confronting his soon-to-be-ex-wife at her family’s plush Northamptionshire estate. Then another woman, a faithful volunteer who helps clean historic Exeter Cathedral, is brutally killed there. Jury and company (this time mostly Police Divisional Commander Brian Macalvie and retired CID detective Tom Brownell) will soon suspect and then prove that the seemingly unrelated crimes all have a common source. I won’t spoil the details for the readers, beyond noting that the plot revolves around misconduct involving wealthy elites, scandals and someone ruthlessly trying to cover things up.
In any case, the prime focus here is on the people involved. There are certainly well-written elements of the police procedural in The Old Success. Yet it is the characters that are the main concern. These characters are fascinatingly quirky, offbeat individuals (I refer to both Jury and the other police, as well as various suspects, witnesses and bystanders). Grimes gives us witty moments, complex yet sly plots and a thoroughly enjoyable mystery.
The title is the name of a pub where Jury and his fellow cops often meet to eat, drink and compare notes on the investigation. But it also refers ironically to retired lawman Brownell legendary skills and the one case he could never quite solve or accept.
In any event, this is a stand-out crime/mystery novel and I highly recommend it.