Note: Although this is Book 15 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.
The book opens on a cold night with an assassin in waiting. She has a been of a clean up to do as someone saw something they weren’t suppose to while she was on a job. From this brief prologue, we jump into Richard Jury’s life, superintendent with Scotland Yard. It’s a boring Saturday, at least for Jury. He has few friends, and most of them are police such as he. So he finds himself riding a bus just to be out of the apartment and around people. But of course, he can’t turn off his brain. He notices a woman in a fur coat get on the bus. She stands out because why would someone that dressed up be on the bus? She then gets off and walks a few blocks before boarding the same bus, which had been slowed by traffic, again. But when she leaves the second time, Jury follows out of curiosity. She enters the public grounds of some palace and Jury hangs back under a street light wishing for a cigarette for a time before heading home. When he reads in the paper the next day that a body of a woman was found in the grounds, he wants to smack his head against his desk.
This is my favorite Richard Jury mystery so far. It was a bit more complex than others I have read, and while I could guess certain elements of the various hidden agendas, I didn’t see how it all fit together until the very end. Richard Jury let us in a bit more than usual with this mystery, showing the reader his lonely, empty life and his attempts to fill it. His sidekick Wiggins, who suffers from some never ending cold, was at his side making small talk with those under suspicion. We also got plenty of time with Melrose, formerly lord of this and that, having given up his titles some years back.
The plot twists together art appreciation, foreign travel, astrology, pet sitting, and Jury’s chance encounter on the bus with the woman in fur. Jury taps Melrose to help him with the art appreciation facet since Melrose has some passing interest in it, and the funds to pull off the interest. He in turn goes to his lady friend painter to obtain her assistance. She rents a room from the Crypts family. This family is terribly interesting, being full of small children, a harried but caring mother, and a father who skirts the law or outright breaks it. The descriptions of the various members had me chucking out loud.
One thing that I appreciate about Grimes’s writing is that pets and kids are not simply stand in blanks used to fill out the scenery. Nor does she go overboard in describing them, making them scene hogs. Instead she gives them enough personality ticks to have them add to the scene/plot without being unbelievable. From the dog named Stone to the child witness who poses as the dead woman, these small scenes had me chuckling once again. While I do wish we had at least one main female character, the female side characters, for the most part, bring something to the table.
The Narration: West did a good job once again, giving the male and female, old and young voices distinction. And I always enjoy his congested Wiggins. I do tend to confuse the voices for Jury and Melrose if I am not paying attention. Sure, Melrose has a talking voice laced with ennui, but when it is simply Melrose’s thoughts, the voice is rather similar to Richard Jury’s.