Friday, July 11, 2014

Review of Martha Grimes's Vertigo 42

We're happy to have a new guest blogger with us, our friend The Girl with the German Shepherd Tattoo. And who wouldn't want to have a tattoo of Lucy?

Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery by Martha Grimes (Scribner, June 2014)

My verdict on the newest Jury book? I enjoyed it far more than the last installment, The Black Cat: A Richard Jury Mystery, but not quite as much as I did the early books in the series. I'd rate it a 7/10.

At the request of a friend, Richard Jury agrees to look into the suspicious death of a wealthy woman nearly two decades ago. Was it suicide? An accident? Or, as the late woman's husband suspects––murder? Meanwhile, while visiting Melrose in Long Piddleton, Jury is drawn into the investigation of yet another ambiguous death. The two cases have certain similarities, but are they connected?

I've been following this series for close to (gulp!) 30 years. I've not been thrilled with the last several entries, and I suspect my buying and reading of these books in recent years owes more to sentimentality than it does to any genuine interest in the mysteries themselves. That being said, I was satisfied with this Jury outing.

The real Vertigo 42 bar
Over the course of 30-plus years and 23 books, we've been introduced to a large cast of characters and we get a chance to visit with many of them in this book. At times, it almost feels a little forced, like they're just given a token line or two, but it's still nice to think that they're all going about their lives, in a state of semi-suspended animation and not subject to the passage of time the way the rest of us are.

The mystery was completely implausible; mostly homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo, but it was entertaining nonetheless. If you're an armchair sleuth, this one should hold your interest right up until the last chapter, with a red herring or two (or three) tossed in to keep you guessing. If you read these books (as I do) for the fine characterization, then you shouldn't be disappointed. Jury, Melrose and Wiggins are gifted with snippets of sharp, clever dialog. (Well-written dialog is such a joy to read; I wish more authors were as skilled in that department as Ms. Grimes is.)

What's missing in this one? No chapters told from a dog or cat's point of view (thank you!), only a brief appearance by the annoying Harry Johnson and no preternaturally adult-like children (or at least they don't dominate the story). No complaints from me in that department! Very little (if any) strong language and no sexual content.

Martha Grimes
As stated previously, this is a long running series and, in my opinion, this doesn't work well as a standalone novel. The relationships between the characters have been evolving over many books, and trying to start here will leave you feeling that you're missing something.

The first book in the series is The Man with a Load of Mischief. Do yourself a favor and start there. (You can thank me later.)

"She had refused to marry him years before, but it was somehow hard for him to let go, if not of the feeling itself, then of the memory of the feeling. He wondered how much of love was actually nostalgia." (Vertigo 42, p. 136)

Interesting question, isn't it: How much of love is actually nostalgia?


  1. Welcome, Girl, and thanks for this post. My husband has read and enjoyed the book, and I have been wondering if I could cope with another outing with Aunt Agatha. The animals and kids were getting a little precious - glad Grimes gave them a miss this time.

  2. Yes, thanks, GWTGST!

    Peri, I agree. I love Grimes's characters, but sometimes her "preternaturally adult-like" children become a bit much. I'm looking forward to looking in at the gang in Long Pidd.

  3. I liked Vertigo a great deal and while I agree it was nice to have the only children in the book be the kids from 22 years before, I kind of missed all the interaction with Melrose and the usual "adult-like child". In fact a book centered on Melrose would be good. I re-read the first 10 books a few years ago, and really enjoyed revisiting those stories. Thanks for the post and the quote about love and nostalgia. It caught me off guard when I first read it, but it has stayed with me.

  4. Vickie, I enjoyed your comment and am curious about which Grimes book you most enjoyed re-reading. I would also like to see a book centered on Melrose Plant.

  5. Help the Poor Struggler, I believe she introduced Macalvie in this book, The Jerusalem Inn, and I Am the Only Running Footman. I meant to go through them all, but stopped. I may start again, I can't help but wonder if there will be another Jury novel.