cover image Case Has Altered

Case Has Altered

Martha Grimes. Henry Holt & Company, $24 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5620-4

Grimes is dazzling in this deftly plotted, 13th Richard Jury mystery (the last was Rainbow's End, 1995). Psychologically complex and muted in tone, with the characters' elliptical relationships reflecting the setting of England's dreamlike fen country, the novel also boasts Grimes's delicious wit. Most of her eccentric regulars are here: detective-manque Melrose Plant, Lord Ardry; his infuriating Aunt Agatha; hypochondriac Sgt. Wiggins; pompous antiquarian Marshall Trueblood. Jennifer Kennington, the woman whom Jury has loved--mainly from afar--for 10 years is the prime suspect in two murders. One victim is her cousin, Verna Dunn, with whom she was a guest at the antiques-strewn estate of Verna's ex-husband, Max Owen, and his second wife; the other is the Owens' servant, Dorcas Reese. The Lincolnshire police haven't requested Scotland Yard's help, so Jury, unofficially allying himself with the enigmatic local chief inspector, persuades Melrose to investigate by visiting the Owens as an antiques appraiser. Jury's breakthrough in identifying the real murderer follows a chat with a signature Grimes character--a knowing, elfin child named Zel whose companion is a nondescript dog. In a comic subplot, Melrose's litigious aunt sues a used furniture dealer, claiming she was injured tripping on an antique bedpan in front of the shop and then attacked by the shopowner's terrier. The title--as always, the name of a pub--holds the clue. After Jury's last two disappointing appearances, both set in America, Grimes brings him triumphantly back where he belongs. (Oct.)