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on July 12, 2014
I've decided to give myself a treat with my summer reading by indulging mostly in my guilty pleasures - that is to say mysteries. And in so doing, I plan to delve into some of the series which I haven't sampled before, starting with Martha Grimes' Inspector Richard Jury series.

This has been recommended to me at various times over the years, but, for some reason, I just never got into it. Maybe because I was busy reading several other series. But time to break new ground and meet some new characters.

One would think that a book featuring a New Scotland Yard detective inspector as its main character would be a police procedural type, but this, I think, falls more in the "cozy" category. While Inspector Jury may be the main character, the story is set in a small village and there are various eccentric villagers who "assist the police in their inquiries," and we see much of the story through their eyes.

The village is Long Piddleton - Long Pidd to the locals. It is a quaint little place that has recently been discovered by Londoners seeking a refuge from the hurly burly of city life. It is a village where nothing of note ever happens. And then the murders start.

First, the body of a stranger to the village is found with his head stuck in a barrel of beer in the cellar of one of the village pubs. But before he was put in the barrel, he was strangled with a wire. This all happened while the pub was busy with patrons, but nobody saw a thing.

Within twenty-four hours, another body is found at another village pub - this one stuck on a beam over the pub's name sign. And then the whole thing just gets silly. People are dropping like flies and there are few clues to indicate what is going on.

The thing is that all of the victims at first are supposedly unknown to the villagers and seem to have no connection to Long Pidd. But Jury is quite sure that there must be a connection if only he can find it.

One of Long Piddleton's own, Melrose Plant, a former lord who gave up his title, then finds another dead body. But this one breaks the pattern. It is a local girl, maid to the vicar, who had recently left town (she said) to visit her family. Plant becomes fascinated by the murders and turns into an amateur sleuth, helping Inspector Jury root out the source of evil in his village. Comic relief is provided by Plant's overbearing Aunt Agatha who fancies herself a modern-day Miss Marple.

In fact, one of the most fun things about this book was its gentle humor. Several of the characters are quirky to the point of peculiarity and they provide a lot of leavening for this essentially straightforward tale of greed gone wild.

I found The Man with a Load of Mischief to be a very light and pleasant read, almost perfect for a summer day. True, the last 15% or so of the book began to drag just a bit, after Jury had already solved the mystery and the culprit had been arrested, but, overall, I enjoyed it and I'm moving on to the second entry in the series. There are twenty-three Inspector Richard Jury books in total and I expect to continue reading my way through them in coming months and years. Fun times ahead!
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on March 13, 2017
I liked the author's earlier works and enjoy the adventures of Richard Jury and Melrose Plant in their personal life. This book, however, was not that interesting. There is a murder, of course, but there wasn't enough Plant-Jury interaction. Grimes is a good writer but this book fell short of my expectations.
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on August 28, 2016
Martha is a humorist who uses the style of British mysteries as the vehicle for her humor, at least in the Richard Jury mysteries. As an American, she writes better British mysteries than virtually any of those native of Britain.

I've read all her books and am now going through them for a second time, gradually replacing my hard backs with Kindle editions.
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on September 17, 2013
I have to confess that I accidentally read this series first book last. This was not fatal but nonetheless, a mistake! This first book paints the Richard Jury-Long Piddleton-Melrose Plant universe in detail. Martha Grimes takes the time to give pronunciations of British names. The Butler Ruthven's name is pronounced Rivv'n. I finally found out why Melrose gave up his titles! And the book was delicious.

There is an innocence in almost all of the books of this series, because the main characters are good-hearted people. They are literary and given to quoting lines from literature and responding to each other's relevant quotes. They know a lot about antiques, and plants, and architecture is described in detail. Maybe because Martha Grimes is an American writing about Britain, she describes everything in loving detail. Dame Agatha tends to skimp on details assuming that you know the kind of place she is writing about. With Martha Grimes novels, one gets to revel in the details, just for the sheer enjoyment.

In this book, we get to enjoy pristine snow in a Christmas Card village, and enjoy tamped down British humor at ridiculous happenings. The thoughts and conversations are snarky and funny, and sometimes poignant. Martha Grimes includes how people felt about occurrences and each other. The psychological and emotional landscape is described in as much detail as the physical landscape of the beautiful buildings and estates, furnishings, clothing, village, etc.

I think that I would have enjoyed the series so much more had I read this book first. So, I think that I will read the first book, The Man with a Load of Mischief, again, and then read the series all over again! It is that good!
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on August 1, 2014
These mysteries make for an enjoyable escape. She writes a complex mystery, which is refreshing; however, her time period descriptions are muddy. The stories take place in the current day, but she describes behaviors and social customs that sound victorian. It's a bit of a non-sequitur. In this book and the second one, which I am reading now, she describes one or two obnoxious characters (we do love to hate people). But she overdoes it and they seem one-dimensional and artificial. But I do like her inspector and the various characters he works with in each book.
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on April 3, 2017
Can't beat any Supt Jury book. I particularly like that the author, Martha Grimes (American), works in the pronunciations of many names in the story.
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on November 18, 2012
This is my first Martha Grimes book, and based on the reviews (both Amazon and Media reviews) it looked like a pleasant read, with a mix of humor and "whodunit" mixed together. Not great literature, but a pleasant read. I can say unequivocally that it exceeded my expectations. If books don't catch my interest in the first 40 pages or so I usually put them aside. This had me within the first five pages. Ms. Grimes has an uncanny ability to set a scene, characters, and capture the oddities and eccentricities of small English village life. The characters are painted broadly, but not too far. Aunt Agatha is the star of the "humorous" side of the book - I absolutely loved her character. Inspector Jury (this was his first appearance in one of her novels) is a very likable character - you do find yourself wanting more of him in following books. The mystery and murder plot was fine, but not exceptional - but that doesn't really matter. Your joy comes more from the dialogue and characters than plot. As I said, a very pleasant and enjoyable read on a cold winter night with a fire going. I've read mixed reviews of her other books - when you have a "formula" I suppose it can sometimes get a little to formulaic, but this is the only one of her books I've read, and I can say that I will certainly read more.
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on August 20, 2015
I read #3 in the Richard Jury series first for a Mystery Book Club because it won the Nero Wolfe Award for best mystery of the year. Since i enjoyed it immensely, I wanted to find out how the recurring characters met and were introduced to the readers. Martha Grimes books are character-driven and known as "cozies" in the genre. I hope to read all 23 of the Jury novels and I suggest reading them in order because they do reference events which occurred in previous books. I enjoy the humor, animals and children which seem to pop up in each novel.The book was a page-turner and easy reading.
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on December 20, 2014
I read Martha Grimes Jury series because there are no surprises; just good "British cozy" reads and The Man with a Load of Mischief didn't disappoint! It is a mystery but also the meeting of a team of people who become friends and partners that continue through her books. The characters are "types" much like Agatha Christie. The author also has a good ability to describe a place and create a setting, much like P.D. James. If you are interested in the Jury series read this book first.
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on September 18, 2016
I first read one of her later books. Liked it well enough to start the series at the beginning with this one. Disappointed, but can't elaborate as I have read so many books since this one that I don't recall the specifics of what I did not like. I do feel that her writing improved later, so will at least read the next one at some point since I already purchased it (The Old Fox Deceiv'd) and decide if I want to continue.
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