MARTHA GRIMES – The Old Silent. Richard Jury #10. Little Brown, hardcover, 1989. Dell, paperback, 1990.

   A major push is on, publicity-wise, to get Martha Grimes onto the bestseller list. I wish her and her leading character Supt. Richard Jury all the best, but frankly she’s just not good enough as a writer to write a 425 page detective novel, and make it interesting.

   Jury is all right, although suffering from malaise at the beginning of the book. It’s all his insufferable friends and acquaintances and the people he meets that drag the book down. For example, nothing at all happens between pages 51 and 66 [of the hardcover edition].

   But don’t mind me. Here’s what the story’s about. Jury is witness to a woman shooting her husband in a pub, the one in the title. There’s no question as to her guilt, of course, but what Jury begins to wonder about is her motive, and how it might be connected to the kidnapping of her stepson and a small friend eight years earlier. (And of course, it is.)

   But in case you’re interested, here’s a comparison. As a book, this one doesn’t require the same amount of effort to read as the one by Elizabeth George, reviewed here a little earlier. Grimes’ characters seem to have their good days as well as bad. They’re still generally rather badly warped examples of humanity, but adding some humor seems to dispel some of the overall miasma of the affair.

   No matter. I’ve had enough, This is it. I mean it. I wrote a diatribe like this to my review of George’s book, and I deleted it. No more of this kind of British detective fiction for me, whether written by Americans with a fetish for the stuff, or it’s the real thing, I think it’s decadent and derivative, or in other words, it’s just no fun to read.

–Reprinted from Mystery*File #13, June 1989 (slightly revised).