The Five Bells and Bladebone

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Superintendent Richard Jury’s holiday in Northamptonshire is interrupted when he discovers the corpse of Simon Lean, the callous, scheming husband of a local heiress. In his search for the killer, Superintendent Jury travels from the English countryside to London’s notorious East End, encountering an abundance of colorful and eccentric characters, as well as another dead body.

With the assistance of longtime friend Melrose Plant, Jury carefully sifts through the facts. As he tightens his circle of suspicions and circumstances around the killer, Jury’s vulnerability complements his strength and determination to uncover the truth. Jury is both a realist and a romantic, with a keen sense of psychological drama balanced by critical introspection and a cautious personality. His interviews with the various suspects are increasingly filled with the tension of confrontation and discovery.

Readers unacquainted with Martha Grimes’s style might find her chapter construction confusing at the outset; in fact, the first two chapters (which detail the two murders) have no visible connection in terms of time and location. Only with Jury’s presence in the third chapter does the story’s chronological construction become apparent. The initial absence of a link between the two murders is thus mirrored in the novel’s framework, with its abrupt and puzzling scene changes. In both cases, it is faith in Superintendent Jury and Martha Grimes which will carry the reader through to a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.