Primarily a writer of detective fiction, American author Martha Grimes is well known for her in-depth and deeply immersive novels. Having established herself over a long and illustrious literary career, she’s highly regarded both critically and commercially. Despite living in America, one of her best known and most successful series of novels featuring the character ‘Richard Jury’, is set within the UK.
Early and Personal Life
Born on the 2nd of May, 1931, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Martha Grimes grew up with a keen interest in British culture. An admitted Anglophile, she drew a lot of inspiration from the environment around her. Whilst growing up she would find herself spending large amounts of time in her mother’s hotel, which was situated in Western Maryland. This was to inform her for much of the work that was to follow, as she kept an ever observant eye on the many people going to and from the establishment. Located in Mountain Lake Park, she was to gain the inspiration here for many of her characters that were to follow.
Spending a lot of her time with her brother during her early years, she would watch his impromptu plays set-up in their garage. She also remembers her mother’s cooking as well, which provides her with many early memories and inspiration. Currently living in Bethesda, Maryland, she continues to write to this very day. She also has a married son who lives in Washington DC with two sons of his own. As she carries on writing, she’s been found to be one of the most consistent authors living in America to date.
Originally publishing poetry with her long form poem ‘Send Bygraves’, her audience were introduced to her unique take on the crime and mystery genres. This was to the provide her with the basis for much of her career that was to follow, as she then turned primarily to mystery novels. Her first full novel, ‘The Man With a Load of Mischief’ was discovered in 1979 and subsequently published in 1981. It was this novel that was not only going to be the book that began her career in crime literature, but it was also the story that first introduced Richard Jury to the world.
Soon she was to start gaining the critical and commercial attention that was to thus cement her writing career, establishing her as one of Americas most prolific mystery authors in the process. By the fourth book critics were beginning to take notice, as she was merging genuine British mysteries with a distinctively American tone. This combination appealed to a large number of people and her audience began to grow, as they were drawn in by both her wit and somewhat brooding cynicism packaged in an easily accessible style.
As time wore on, she soon decided to embark on a new venture as she wrote a serial killer novel set in Maryland, which tied the murder mystery to a strained mother and son relationship. This was to be the book that helped establish her career outside of the UK led story-lines she’s previously been famous for. Although she still bases a lot of her work around Richard Jury, she continues to write a wide-range of mystery novels to this day.
The Man With a Load of Mischief
The initial installment in her Richard Jury series and her first full novel overall, this was to mark the beginning of her literary career as a mystery writer. Originally published in 1981, it set-up the character and what he was to be for the duration of the series. Providing him with his first mystery, he deals with the case that’s presented to him, as he’s introduced to his audience.
Like the majority of her books in this series, this one is named after a British pub, which this time concerns the ‘Man With a Load of Mischief’. Finding a dead body pushed into a keg of beer, it appears that there is murder afoot. This becomes even more transparent when another pub, the ‘Jack and Hammer’, has a body placed upon its sign situated where there used to be a mechanical figure that kept the time. With a couple of murders across two pubs it seems that there is a pattern emerging between them both. As a case is soon underway, it’s time for Inspector Richard Jury to step-up and solve the murder mystery that’s taking place. Working for Scotland Yard, he enters Long Piddleton, an idyllic rural town where everyone is looking outside its borders for their culprit. It is only when one Melrose Plant suspects that the killer may be closer to home, and the investigation begins to search within the local community. Who could be committing the crimes and for what reason? Can Richard Jury find the killer before it’s too late? What will become of them as they investigate the mystery behind the Man With a Load of Mischief?
Biting the Moon
This was the first in her series of her Andi Oliver line of novels that also center themselves around a mystery. First published in 1999 on the 1st of January, they feature a few characters from her previous works. Whilst this includes some of the same set-up for the book, it is a relatively new direction for Martha Grimes, as she focuses this time on a more ‘coming of age’ theme.
Waking up in a bed-and-breakfast alien to her, a young woman finds herself nameless and alone with one solitary message left there for her; ‘daddy’ will return soon. Unable to decipher what this means, she must learn who she is and where she’s come from. Initially afraid though and fearing that the worst may have happened, she turns fleeing into the woods nearby. It is in the wilderness that she meets the woman who is to help her discover who she is, this woman being Mary Dark Hope. They then aim to find out the truth, which means finding one person in particular who has the secret to her much sought after identity; the mysterious man that was her abductor. Set around dark ‘coming-of-age’ themes, it operates as a departure from Grimes more traditional fare to which her audiences had previously become accustomed to, this time moving in a new and darker direction. Who is the girl and who is the man that is said to have abducted her? Where did she come from and why was she taken from there? What is the secret behind it all and what will become of the girl without an identity?
Books in order of publication by series:
Richard Jury Books
|The Man With a Load of Mischief||(1981)|
|The Old Fox Deceiv’d||(1982)|
|The Anodyne Necklace||(1983)|
|The Dirty Duck||(1984)|
|Help the Poor Struggler||(1985)|
|The Deer Leap||(1985)|
|I Am The Only Running Footman||(1986)|
|The Five Bells and Bladebone||(1987)|
|The Old Silent||(1989)|
|The Old Contemptibles||(1991)|
|The Horse You Came In On||(1993)|
|The Case Has Altered||(1997)|
|The Lamorna Wink||(1999)|
|The Blue Last||(2001)|
|The Grave Maurice||(2002)|
|The Winds of Change||(2004)|
|The Old Wine Shades||(2006)|
|The Black Cat||(2010)|
|The Old Success||(2019)|
Emma Graham Books
|Cold Flat Junction||(2000)|
Andi Olivier Books
|Biting the Moon||(1999)|
|The End of the Pier||(1993)|
|The Way of All Fish||(2014)|
|The Train Now Departing||(1998)|
|Double Double: A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism||(2013)|