Martha Grimes: The Dirty Duck


 

Festive Tasks Master Update Post HERE

 


Festive Tasks, Door 5 – Animals, Book: Read a book that has an animal on the cover, or involves someone who works in conservation.

I reread the first two books from Martha Grimes’s Richard Jury series — The Man With a Load of Mischief and The Old Fox Deceiv’d — earlier this year, instantly fell in love with them all over again, and decided to include more of her early books in my reading in the final months of the year … you know, that time when you’re starting to seriously crave settings like Stratford-upon-Avon, the English country side or London; combined with a wacky sense of humor, the odd aristocrat (with or without a title to their name), in short the whole paraphernalia of vintage British mysteries (in this instance, brought to modern times) … and the odd pub, for which in this series each individual installment is named.  Many of the series’s titles are inspired by pubs that really exist (or did at the time of the writing), including this book’s: the Dirty Duck used here is the actual Stratford-upon-Avon location.

While my rereads of the first two books of the series principally confirmed all the reasons why I first gobbled the first 10 or so Richard Jury books down in short order close to their orignal publication, I liked The Dirty Duck (and incidentally also book no. 3, The Anodyne Necklace) quite a bit better upon rereading it than I had initially.  I think this is chiefly due to the fact that in rereading I’m less focused on the obvious eye-catchers and recurring features, such as the murders and whodunnit, Melrose Plant’s Aunt Agatha — for whom Steve West nails the most perfect, hilariously on-point voice imaginable in the audio version –, the de-facto-orphaned, wise-beyond-his/her/their-age kid(s) and his/her/their furry friend(s) (in this instance, a cat), Chief Superintendent Racer and his own, eternally losing battle against the cat that has taken residence in his office, apparently with the sole aim of tormenting him, etc.  Rather, I’m beginning to appreciate the way in which Grimes is subtly and gradually establishing a genuine friendship and mutual respect between Jury and Melrose Plant: while they join forces from the first book on — as a matter of chance there, but much more purposefully already in books no. 2 and 3 — this fourth installment seems to be the place where they’re really becoming a team in more ways than merely in their outward cooperation.

Grimes doesn’t eschew the odd cliché; with regard to the world of cozy-mystery Britain in which her books are set (even if the murders themselves are anything but cozy) as little as with regard to her fellow Americans, and that is a factor that’s present here perhaps even more than in the earlier three books: I remember it was the single biggest reason why I rated The Dirty Duck significantly less highly than the series’s first two books initially; although even then I had to grant her that to any European who only knows Americans in their incarnation as tour groups being shepherded from one highlight to the next (“What’s today — Monday?  Then this must be Paris …”), her portrayal might come across as an only marginally exaggerated but essentially realistic caricature.  Next to everything else I discovered in the book during this reread, though, even this barely impinged anymore.  I’m still not willing to go quite as high as my rating of the first two books, but heck — I just can no longer make it any less than a full four stars, either.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cats Fun and Games

Santa Cats

Festive Tasks Master Update Post HERE Task 3: In honor of the depiction of Santa in Australian-style clothing, dress up your dog (or cat), or just use photoshop or another photo editing program, to dress up one of your pets as the Australian version of Santa Paws. Post the picture here – the zanier, the […]

Read More
Fun and Games Literature Reviews

Margaret Oliphant: The Library Window

Festive Tasks Master Update Post HERE   Task 3: “Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about […]

Read More
Cooking - Food - Drink Fun and Games Lifestyle

Festive Tasks: Door 17 – Holiday Food (Tasks 1 – 3)

Festive Tasks Master Update Post HERE As for the other squares where I’ve completed several tasks in a single post (Gifts, Holiday Shopping, and Correspondence), I’m dividing this into several pages, one per task.   Task 1: What’s your favorite seasonal drink? Can be alcoholic or virgin, complicated cocktails, festive punches / noggs or just […]

Read More
%d bloggers like this: