cover image Belle Ruin

Belle Ruin

Martha Grimes. Viking Books, $25.95 (346pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03461-1

Grimes, well known for her extensive Richard Jury mystery series, has struck gold with precocious 12-year-old Emma Graham, who was featured in two of Grimes' previous novels. Basking in the glow of new-found fame after narrowly escaping a murder attempt, Emma has her hands full reporting for the local newspaper, waitressing in her mom's seedy hotel restaurant and performing in her brother's low-budget production of ""Medea: The Musical."" She also creates havoc for the hotel's guests, hobnobs with the local sheriff and trades barbs with her archenemy, Ree-Jane Davidow. Nonetheless, Emma's never ending quest to discover the identity of a mysterious girl only she can see, as well as her passion for solving the 20-year-old mystery surrounding a baby kidnapped from the once famous Belle Rouen hotel are always her top priorities. Grimes' pungent prose and catchy dialog breathe life into her charming young narrator and the novels' idiosyncratic cast of characters. While the fact that Grimes picks up threads from two previous books may disorient newcomers, Emma's endearing ways and sparkling observations-""It isn't frogs you get in your throat, it's memories""-will leave readers eager for the next installment.