Series Round-up 1: The Knowledge by Martha Grimes

Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury mysteries seem to have been going forever, and I recently caught up with the latest title, The Knowledge. I wanted to see if Grimes still had the knack with plotting and character that I’ve always enjoyed so much.

The Knowledge gets off to a cracking start – Grimes could probably write a how-to book on first pages that grab the reader. A London taxi-driver drops a beautiful young couple at a select casino, whereupon they are both shot dead. The killer jumps into the cab and tells the cabbie to drive. There’s some exciting stuff with other cabbies and secret signals before the shooter disappears into a train station.

Soon Jury is involved, along with a bunch of street kids who often help the cabbies (chasing down unpaid fares etc.) and one of them follows the shooter to Nairobi. There’s a touch of the Famous Five here. Children are often key witnesses in the Jury novels and Grimes has a knack for making them engaging and quirky. So of course, Jury’s friend and part-time sleuth, Melrose Plant, has to abandon his stately pile and the village of Long Piddleton to head off to Nairobi too. Plant’s job is to find little Patty and bring her back to London. This gives the author the opportunity to weave in a touch of the exotic as well as some background on gemstone mining in Africa.

Back in London, Jury finds another job for one of his pals from Long Pid. He lands a croupier job for antiques dealer Marshall Trueblood at the casino so he can case the joint, while Jury does a bit of star-gazing. (One of the victims was a physicist with a special interest in astronomy.) With tanzanite smuggling, art fraud, astronomy and Black Jack, the book has plenty of interesting diversions, while the cabbies sneak off to their pub, The Knowledge, the location of which is only given to those who drive a black London taxi.

Martha Grimes must be getting on a bit, and I often wonder if she’s thinking of retiring Richard Jury (he’s no spring chicken, either) but for now I’m so glad she’s still at the keyboard. For lively, dramatic and original mysteries, she’s still got what it takes. Four out of five from me.


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