Martha Grimes’s mysteries, despite their familiar British surroundings and English eccentrics, defy the usual categorization. Her plots partake of the best of many schools—amateur sleuth, police procedural, psychological study, private investigator—without succumbing to the limitations of any given type. This rare versatility is largely the result of two strategies: the pairing of a Scotland Yard detective with an aristocratic amateur sleuth and a sustained attention to atmosphere.
The two detectives—Detective Superintendent Richard Jury and Melrose Plant—are idealizations from different worlds, a slightly oddball team containing one man from the metropolis and one from the country. Grimes’s control of the atmosphere in which these two operate has the mark of an exceptional talent. Not a single detail is without design. The novel titles drawn from pub names (her trademark), the poetic imagery, the alternation of delicious humor and somber apprehensions, and the rolling montage technique—all combine to produce Grimes’s uniquely wrought mysteries.