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Grimes, Martha - 'The Black Cat'
Hardback: 336 pages (Apr. 2010) Publisher: Viking Adult ISBN: 0670021601

In the 22nd mystery to feature Superintendent Richard Jury, a dead girl is discovered late one evening, sprawled over a table outside a pub in Chesham, Bucks, named The Black Cat. The girl has been shot and what is very intriguing is that she is wearing an Yves St Laurent dress and Jimmy Choo shoes. She also has £750 in her purse together with credit cards so robbery is not a motive. The only witness to the murder is a black cat who is crucial to the story.

Soon, Superintendent Richard Jury, aided by his capable assistant DS Wiggins are investigating this strange death and shortly after two more occur, but in London, and the victims are similarly attired but with clothes by different designers. It becomes clear that all the dead girls are working as escorts. Is a serial murderer at work and if so why are two murders occurring in London and one in Bucks?

The pub manager replaces the black cat in the pub at the time of the murder for another similar cat but the original is located by a dog, Mungo, who is a bit of a sleuth! He, (the dog) tries to convince the original black cat that it is her duty to return to the pub and he is taking food from The Black Cat to her and then tries to smuggle her back to the original location in the car of Superintendent Jury. This requires the reader to believe that a dog can talk to a cat and get answers! About three chapters are devoted to talking cats and dogs but it doesn't damage the plot and the book moves swiftly on to an exciting conclusion.

This American author always uses the names of English public houses in the titles of her books and she seems to keep close to the British way of life in the stories apart from very small errors including when Superintendent Jury is questioning the boyfriend of one of the dead girls, a barrow boy who sells flowers and he says, the murdered victim and he were due to marry in the fall! Also DS Wiggins is offered tea and seed cake by one woman he visits. I think seed cake is more often offered in Eastern US households than British ones.

I enjoyed the book. Superintendent Richard Jury is an engaging detective and I'll look out for more books by this author. There is no extreme violence or sexual content and it should appeal to pet owners - in fact Martha Grimes is pictured holding a black cat in her arms on the back cover.

Terry Halligan, England
May 2010

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 9/05/2010 10:54