The Black Cat by Martha Grimes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed The Black Cat after a long break from Martha Grimes's Richard Jury novels. As usual, Grimes provides an odd combo of murder, detection, personal demons, quirky characters, and what really feels like complex inside jokes. I read The Old Wine Shades three? two? years ago and enjoyed/was frustrated by Grimes's deliberate refusal to solve the mystery/punish the bad guy/explain anything, and The Black Cat (there are actually three black cats--and three dogs--and they do communicate telepathically) follows the same m.o. by referring to characters and events from that same book, but with no real explanation or clarification. To explain: that means that one whole plot line of this later book all refers, in a "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" manner, to a completely different book that was almost completely opaque even when one was reading it firsthand. THANK GOD that was only one plot line. The other plot line dealt with women living double lives, and I have to admit I got DeeDee/Kate/Chris pretty muddled up for most of the time as well. However, that plot line did have a whole "murderer confesses in detail" scene that tied everything up.
Oh, and Jury's love life is continuing in its usual disastrous way. His former love is in a coma, Carole-Anne is as immature and frustrating as ever, Polly shows up once, the call girl he meets is a floozy, not a stunner. . . .
However, I did enjoy the book! It feels that Martha Grimes couldn't give a damn that probably 1/3 of her readers want a straight police procedural, 1/3 of them want a cozy mystery driven by zany characters, and 1/3 want something challenging that involves particle physics and probability (maybe I should rearrange those percents)--and then there's the whole population that likes stories "written by" animals! She seems to be having a wonderful time writing what she wants to write, slamming around from inside jokes to high fashion to string theory and back. It's like watching YoYo Ma, in cutoffs and a tee shirt, sit in a lawn chair and play some of his favorite tunes, top 40 and otherwise. The Black Cat would not be a good first Martha Grimes book, but I think it's a very good 12th (or whatever number it is).
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