three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
41-July-Aug-2009
user_rating: 
0

A-The Black Cat.epsThis is Martha Grimes's 22nd mystery novel featuring Richard Jury--after Dust (2007).

The Story: A British mystery novel featuring Scotland Yard and several murdered prostitutes? It might sound like a retread of Jack the Ripper, but Martha Grimes strikes a very different tone in The Black Cat. While there is plenty of plot for Grimes's featured detective, the polite Richard Jury, to unravel, the book is just as much about the distinctions among the victims' fine footwear and their surprising double lives (each of the prostitutes was a shy, quiet woman by day). The novel also includes several recurring Grimes characters, such as Jury's aristocratic sidekick Melrose Plant.
Viking. 336 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780670021604

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"This is a British mystery, with discrete murders, a village populated with idiosyncratic characters, and whimsical humor, enlivened by careful plotting and enriched by an unexpected yet thoroughly logical conclusion. We'll have a little more of Martha Grimes, please." Shirley K. Murray

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Sometimes, reading her, you think you've stumbled on an improbable fusion of Agatha Christie and Monty Python, but that, in moderation, is not an unpleasant experience. ... This is, let it be said, a monumentally whimsical novel. You may find it bewildering at times, but if you are partial to whimsy it will dazzle you." Patrick Anderson

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Okay, so the talking animals may be over the top; but for all its eccentric drollery, Martha Grimes's new Richard Jury mystery, The Black Cat, is a shrewd whodunit that plays on the facile assumptions we make about people based on their outward appearance." Marilyn Stasio

South FL Sun-Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In The Black Cat, Grimes' lively, energetic plot about double lives again shows why her novels continue to make the best-sellers lists. ... The Black Cat ties up some unresolved plot threads from previous Jury novels while setting new paths for Richard and his friends." Oline H. Cogdill

Critical Summary

Many reviewers felt obliged to note that a Martha Grimes novel requires a taste both for the British "cozy" mystery and Britain's particular brand of tongue-in-cheek humor. But it was a taste that all those critics seemed to share; Patrick Anderson of the Washington Post wrote that he would gladly set down more superficially thrilling fare for any of Grimes's books. While some critics raised eyebrows at some of Grimes's odder touches (like the telepathic color commentary by the local dog and cats) and plot twists, all of them recommended The Black Cat and the rest of the Richard Jury series to new readers. Meanwhile, they hinted that longtime fans should be satisfied with how Grimes ties up certain loose ends from previous books.