Dust, by Martha Grimes

April 21, 2007 at 12:32 pm (Book review, books)

I just finished the latest Richard Jury mystery by Martha Grimes. I found Dust as delightful and enjoyable, as the preceding entry in this series, The Old Wine Shades. Grimes has a light, almost whimsical touch with her subject matter; yet she can turn somber when the occasion demands. Right off the bat in Dust, Jury gets entangled with a very brainy, very sexy fellow detective named Lu Aguilar. This is a really hot love affair: Lu and Jury can barely get from the door to the bedroom before everybody’s clothes are lying in a tangled heap on the floor! This is a major complicating factor in Jury’s life: he is already in a relationship with pathologist Phyllis Nancy.

Lu and Jury meet initially because of a murder inquiry. Billy Maples has been found dead in his room at the Zetter Hotel, a “hot” new London venue. In his early thirties, the victim had been an ardent supporter of the arts. Though subject to erratic moods, he was nevertheless beloved and esteemed by friends and family. So who would want to kill Billy Maples? As the investigation proceeds, Jury and Lu are surprised to learn that the answer lies in the past – specifically, in the horror and dislocation of the Second World War.

Two added elements present in this novel make it a particularly pleasurable read. First, Martha Grimes obviously has a special affection for dogs; they have their own important status as characters in her books. She is skillful at pulling this off without being cloying or sentimental, no mean feat. Secondly, the life and works of Henry James figure importantly in Dust. So much so, that I had to find something – anything! – to read by “the Master,” albeit a relatively short work. I found in my own (rather capacious) library the short story “The Great Good Place.” Well…the writing was gorgeous of course, but I had some difficulty knowing exactly what was going on until I was very close to the end. Alert for those who wish to exercise their gray matter (and revel in beautiful prose): read Henry James!


  1. Alexandre Berner said,

    Really, I always enjoy the “Jury”-stories by Martha Grimes. Only, till now they were, even if sometimes very intricate and romantic, up to the reality. But what I do not understand in this novel, is the story about a son of the famous SA-chief Röhm having been sent to England in 1943 (or is it 1939) and being the father of the victim. I think that when you put a historic element in a story it must have been possible to have happened, maybe, it’s also possible that a person with a fantasie name lives in a historic time, but if you write about a historic person it must really fit this person. But as everybody knows Röhm was killed by Himmler with Hitler’s approval in 1934, could also not have put a son of himself on a train in 1939 or 1943, unless this were a revenant of the SA-chief Röhm. As DI Jury has a QU of about 160 or 180, he should have discarded this story which was told him by the retired chief of the “Enigmatic”-bureau straight away, not told it to his fried Malcolm, who also is supposed to have been a studied Anglistic person and who himself doesn’t realize that the story cannot be true! Maybe I would understand it, if Martha Grimes would have made a sort of science fiction story, if this Röhm would have come back from whereever he would have stayed after his death, would it now be paradise or hell, according to which political side you are in, by means of a time traveling device which has not been invented till now, it would at least be comprehensible by the reader, but as it is now, I find that this novel is by far the feebliest novel Martha Grimes has written by now and I am disappointed, because till now I always liked very much Martha Grimes novels, not only her Crime novels

  2. Judy Erlandson said,

    The end of this was puzzling to me and I’d appreciate any help. I’m assuming it was the grandmother who pushed the other children off the life boat but could be wrong there – I don’t understand how Anne could have known that if everyone who was there drowned.

    Would greatly appreciate any clarifying anyone can give.


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