In her latest Richard Jury adventure, Martha Grimes takes us to Ashdown Dean, a little English village where animals are dying in a series of seemingly innocuous accidents. While the puzzling deaths of village pets may raise some idle gossip over a pint or two at the Deer Leap, the village pub, this hardly seems a case for Superintendent Jury of Scotland yard. Nor does it seem much of a challenge for the combined deductive powers of Jury and Melrose, the affable former Earl of Caverness.
It is his mystery-writing, amethyst-eyed friend, Polly Praed, who drags Plant and Jury to Ashdown Dean. The impatient Polly, having yanked open a call box in the pouring rain, is ill-prepared for what lands at her feet. The now-deadly case is cause for calling in Scotland Yard.
This is the seventh crime novel by Grimes, an American who writes wih assurance on the exploits of Scotland Yard's Richard Jury and his titled friend Malcolm Plant. They meet at The Deer Leap, a pub in Ashdown Dean where people and pets have been dying "accidentally.'' Plant focuses his attentions on a solitary, 15-year-old girl who calls herself Carrie Fleet. She's an amnesiac, rescued from London lowlifes who had found the child and were using her to collect government money for her support. Carrie's unlikely savior is a baroness, living on drunken fantasies in the decayed splendor of her late husband's estate. In an isolated corner of the grounds, Carrie maintains a sanctuary for abused animals. Her zealous care makes her a suspect in the destruction of the local fox-hunting headquarters, but Jury casts his net elsewhere. In the last act of the witty and deeply moving drama, retribution for heinous crime is exacted. Here gentle Plant plays a role so utterly unexpected that readers will feel its impact for a long time. November 26