Karo’s #CBR4 Review #22: The Old Silent by Martha Grimes
Although I kept quiet about it in the beginning, so as not to lose too much street cred and to conceal my disappointment, it’s a fact that I came to live in England because of pretty, and pretty damn inaccurate, pictures in my head. Every single one of those pictures was either taken from old Miss Marple movies, Beatles lyrics, Victorian novels or Martha Grimes. I devoured every single one of her novels in my formative years, and even though I’ve been living on this freakishly damp island for almost 8 years now, there are still lots of places in this country that I’ve never been to but feel I know well, simply because Richard Jury once solved some crime there. I think it’s fair to say that Martha Grimes is solely responsible for the slow but constant heartbreak and disillusionment I’ve been suffering. The fact that she herself is not British should have given me a clue back then…
Ever since Richard Jury’s first outing in the 80s, Grimes has been writing a new case for Scotland Yard’s most charming superintendent almost every year. I read them all until a few years ago, when it all went a bit Schroedinger’s cat, and a talking cat at that. (Animals have always played a big part in Grimes’ novels, but recently they have turned into detectives, and Jury, who should be way too old to solve crime and be attractive anyway, is basically drinking wine and pondering parallel universes. Booooring.) And although I’m a literary snob, I am not ashamed to say that I love the Richard Jury novels, and they are much, much more than just detective stories. I chose to re-read them, and started with my favourite, The Old Silent. It’s a bleak book, full of solitary characters walking the Yorkshire Moors, Richard Jury among them. The story of the kidnapped boy and his grieving stepmother is heartbreaking, and nobody really wins in the end, even when the crime is solved. Grimes is a good writer, if a bit too manipulative when it comes to comic relief (she has her own recurring characters for that). Her stories are believable and sad, and her characters stay with you for a long time. Richard Jury is my hero, and although there are too many of them, even the animals and kids are likeable and memorable. I sound like a real child-hater now as well, don’t I? It’s just that if you read those novels without giving it a few months between them, the formula of withdrawn kid/clever dog/only Jury understanding them and solving the crime gets a bit tedious. But really, one should admire a writer who basically pulls off the same novel 24 times in a row, and you still want to read it, love it and live it. Yes, I want to be one of them, I want to live in Long Piddleton with the former Lord Ardry and his mad aunt, have a pint with Richard Jury in a cosy London pub and visit all the places he haunts with his depressive presence. I love the world Martha Grimes has created, and realising that it doesn’t exist still breaks my heart.
In short, go read them all. Stop after the 18th. And then tell me which one is your favourite.