The End of the Pier

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The reader expecting another mystery-with-comic-undertones, featuring the familiar characters of Richard Jury and Melrose Plant and centering around a murder committed in an English pub with a funny name, is in for a surprise with THE END OF THE PIER. As its jacket indicates, this book is “bold...departure” from standard Grimesian fare; whether it is the author’s “most accomplished novel yet” is open to debate. Those readers who have come to love Martha Grimes because her plots are as hilarious as they are hair-raising, and because her characters are not simply familiar but fascinating and (frequently) funny, may well be disappointed in this book. The book is not necessarily bad; it is certainly not typical Grimes.

THE END OF THE PIER is the story of a very strange woman named Maud Chadwick, who (among other eccentricities, many of them annoying) likes to sit at the end of her pier and watch the endless party going on at the home of the wealthy “summer people” across the lake. The bulk of the book focuses on Maud— her fears, feelings, problems, and general weirdness—with the mystery aspect relegated almost to that of a subplot. There is a murder—several of them, in fact—and a murderer; there is a policeman who has befriended Maud (though one wonders why he puts up with her); there is even an innocent man in jail for crimes he did not commit. These facets of the story are, however, subordinate to the tale of Maud.

THE END OF THE PIER is devoid of the author’s usual humor; moreover, the “mystery” is bland and the central character irritating. Readers who like psychoanalytic studies of disturbed but basically uninteresting people will enjoy this literary experiment; those who liked Martha Grimes’s previous books probably won’t.