RAINBOW’S END opens with the discovery of the body of Angela Hope, a thirty-year-old woman from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in a cesspit at the historic landmark of Old Sarum. After Superintendent Richard Jury of Scotland Yard begins investigating the death of the elderly Nell Hawes, he begins to believe that the two deaths were connected because Hawes had relatives in New Mexico. When Frances Hamilton, another elderly woman, dies at the Tate museum and is discovered to have visited New Mexico recently, Scotland Yard begins to look deeper for connections.
The investigation proceeds along several tracks. Jury pursues leads in New Mexico, and leaves his old friend, Melrose Plant, to make investigations in England. One of those investigations has nothing to do with the case. Jenny Kennington, a romantic interest, has disappeared, and Jury asks Plant to inquire after her. Meanwhile, the hypochondriac Detective Sergeant Alfred Wiggins attempts to piece together the case from his hospital bed, with clues and information supplied by Plant.
Resolution of the case comes suddenly, more as an accident than as a result of detective work. The detectives gather enough information to make the leap to the solution, but it is a leap rather than a steady accumulation of evidence that solves the murders.
As usual in Martha Grimes’s mysteries, the situations and characters compete for attention with the mystery itself. Grimes does a masterful job of depicting the pettiness of village life in England as well as the trendy, often shallow life of Santa Fe. She casts a sardonic eye on the New Age mysticism surrounding Santa Fe and the film crowd that infests the city. Readers familiar with Grimes’s work will be pleased to reacquaint themselves with familiar characters. Grimes brings back several recurring characters in addition to the major players, as well as a set of background characters from a case that took place ten years previously. Those reading Grimes for the first time may feel as though they have entered in the middle of several minor ongoing plot lines, but even without background knowledge the situations and characters can be enjoyed.