The Winds of Change

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

by Martha Grimes #41

Oh, Martha Grimes! How I have missed you. This book came out last year, but I was so out of the loop I totally blanked it. I'll be honest - I don't go to Martha Grimes for intricately plotted puzzle mysteries. The puzzle is never what grabs me. I go to Martha Grimes because I love Richard Jury and I am completely besotted with Melrose Plant. Sigh. Melrose. The complainers (every series has them) say that the stories are so similar, who even cares anymore? Well, me! I would not dream of denying that there are certain similarities - there is usually a child, an animal, and a beautiful woman (who, if she has the misfortune of falling for Jury, will probably be dead before the middle). Jury is depressed and melancholy (also kind - but not sickeningly goody goody about it), Melrose is at loose ends. Hijinks ensue. All right, maybe not hijinks, but you know, melancholy events transpire and then the bodies start dropping or the clues start stacking up. Heads will be scratched, crimes will be solved. But more important than any of that, I get to spend a few hundred pages with Jury and Melrose and the whole world that Grimes has created.

Every series has a certain sameness - that's why readers come back. They like spending time there. It must be the blessing and the curse of a series author. I imagine that they can't change too much in order to maintain the integrity of the series (and placate fans), but you have to change enough to keep the larger story moving forward (and also to keep from going crazy). At this point in the series Grimes seems to be gearing up for some changes. (Although I would argue that there have been subtle character changes throughout the series) It is acknowledged (out loud, even) that Jury is in a constant state of melancholic misery, and that every woman he loves winds up if not most truly and sincerely dead then at the very least depressed herself. But, like the title implies, I think there is change in the air. I'm OK with that. I had an email argument with a friend who thought it was ridiculous the way Jury ended up alone at the end of every novel. She is rooting hard for him to find a little happiness. My stance was that in a mystery series there is no guarantee or expectation of happily ever after. I can see where she's coming from, but I think it would feel really awkward and irritating if the series took a turn to Jury having to justify how much time the job takes away from his family life and suchlike. But I think if Grimes is going to go in that direction, she'll find some way to do it that will be both fresh and natural for the character. In the mean time - Melrose, Melrose, Melrose. You are cranky, smart, funny, loyal and rich with a well-developed sense of revenge (particularly when it comes to Aunt Agatha). What's not to love?
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