Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Dirty Duck by Martha Grimes (1984)


About the author: This is #4 of 25 books featuring Richard Jury. See this Wikipedia article for biography and list of the 25 Richard Jury books. Click this Martha Grimes label to see all my reviews of this series.

Major characters:

The Honeysuckle Tour group:
  • James Farraday Sr.
  • Amelia Blue Farraday, his southern belle wife
  • Honey Belle Farraday, their 17 year old daughter
  • Penny Farraday, their 15 year old daughter
  • Jimmy (James Jr.) Farraday, their wandering 9-year old son
  • Gwendolyn Bracegirdle
  • Lady Violet Dew, titled but earthy
  • Cyclamen Dew, her niece
  • George Cholmondelay, a legend in his own mind
  • Harvey Schoenberg, a nerdy computer enthusiast 
  • Valentine Honeycutt, the tour leader
  • Jonathan Schoenberg. Harvey's brother 
  • Superintendent Richard Jury
  • Sergeant Lasko, Stratford police
  • Melrose Plant
  • Agatha Audry, Melrose's aunt
  • Vivian Rivington, Jury's old flame
  • Jenny Kennington, Jury's new flame?
Locale: Stratford, England

Synopsis: The Honeysuckle Tour group has descended upon Stratford to take in the Shakespearean atmosphere. First problem, 9-year old Jimmy Farraday wanders off somewhere and cannot be found. This is not too alarming, it seems he does this all the time; so after a couple of days(!) the family appeals the authorities for help. 

Sergeant Lasko of the Stratford police asks Richard Jury speak to the Farradays unofficially to reassure them everything is being done to find Jimmy. 

Meanwhile, one of the tour group, Gwendolyn Bracegirdle, goes for a walk at night and is found dead the next day. Beside the body is a program from As You Like It with a bit of obscure handwritten verse on it. In an effort to identify the poem, Jury consults with tour group member and computer nerd Harvey Schoenberg who is researching Elizabethan history, to no avail. Melrose Plant goes to the library and after a brief inquiry identifies the poem.

Additional deaths follow, each with a bit of the poem left with the body.

The story cuts away periodically to Jimmy, who is being held captive in a tower along with a cat.

Review: The murderer leaving bits of a poem with the body sure sounds Agatha Christie!

At first, it was unclear to me whether the accounts of Jimmy being held in the tower were real or just an account of Jimmy's imagination. (It turns out they are real). The Jimmy story line runs along totally independent of the tour group murders, although it does connect up at the end.

Lady Violet Dew seems too coarse to be believable (reading Hustler?)

A good read although it does delve into Elizabethan history a bit much.

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