Three jurisdictions. Three victims. Three cops.
And, for devotees of intelligent crime fiction, multiple satisfactions in “The Old Success”—the 25th (and shortest) installment in Martha Grimes’ series featuring Detective Superintendent Richard Jury of Scotland Yard.
The first victim, Madeline “Manon” Vinet, a French chocolatier, is found by two young girls on a beach in the Isles of Scilly, just off the coast of Cornwall.
The second, Flora Flood’s estranged husband, Tony Servino, is killed at Watermeadows, a country estate near Long Piddleton in Northamptonshire owned by Flora’s aunt, Lady Eleanor Summerston—a character longtime Grimes readers will remember from 1987’s “The Five Bells and Bladebone.”
And the third, Moira Quinn, is discovered in Exeter Cathedral in Devon.
The first cop to appear is gruff Brian Macalvie, a divisional commander of the Devon–Cornwall police and an established character in several Grimes novels.
The second, of course, is Jury. And the third is retired detective Tom Brownell, whose solve rate approaches perfection.
And it’s not long before the three discover a common thread among the murders.
Grimes, who began her writing career with Jury’s first case—1981’s “The Man with a Load of Mischief”—is also the author of 10 non-Jury novels, a collection of two novellas and one work of nonfiction. Honored with the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award in 2012, she has also won a legion of loyal fans.
She brings all her talents to bear in “The Old Success”—a smart, tricky and engaging plot; a wealth of eccentric characters, some charming, some sinister; an unmatched ability to write sensitively but never cloyingly about children; a pungent wit that lightens the darkness; and an elegance of prose.
What also distinguishes her work is her fertile imagination in creating—and successfully maintaining—the numerous settings throughout the Jury novels, not only the familiar ones in London and Long Piddleton, but also the places to which his investigations take him. Each is a world to which the reader journeys with pleasure.
Escapism for the discerning, armchair travel for anglophiles and exercise for the mind, Grimes’ mysteries shimmer with originality, and “The Old Success” represents another glittering jewel.
Jay Strafford, a retired Virginia journalist, now lives in Florida.