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Continuing Characters

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The good news is that when I woke up this morning, only one of my eyes was welded shut.  It’s still an enormous pain in the rear, and it almost certainly means that I’m  having trouble concentrating, having trouble reading, and having trouble writing.

And I’m finishing a book, and I’m due to go in for jury duty tomorrow. 

Meaning that this is getting to be more than your usual distraction.

But in the meantime–

I wrote here several months ago about a Martha Grimes novel called The Old Wine Shades, about which I had a few complaints, not the least of which was the fact that the murderer was not caught and brought to justice.

We know who he is.  He is supposed to be a crimnal mastermind, and in a lot of ways is.  The basic story was very interesting.  But it bothered me–and it doesn’t always–that the man got away clean.

It turns out, however, that I may have spoken too soon.  The last day or two, I’ve been reading a book called Dust, also by Martha Grimes, and, I think, the sequel to The Old Wine Shades.  In it, our criminal mastermind murderer is back, apparently as a continuing character in what will be a set of subplots where Grimes’s detective, Richard Jury, tries to find some way to pin his crimes on him.

The idea of a criminal mastermind who continually thwarts the detective’s attempts to bring him to justice isn’t new.  Conan Doyle did it with Moriarity, and if I remember correctly there was something like that in the early Ellery Queen.

Okay, don’t quote me on that one, because I don’t really remember.  But you see what I mean.  It’s been around a while.

And yet, for some reason, I find it difficult to accept in this particular set of books.  Maybe the setting is too realistic. 

“Realistic” is the best word I can come up with here, but I don’t exactly know if it’s the one I want.  Grimes’s books are neither terribly realistic nor cutesy-cozy.  No police department in the world would allow Jury’s collaboration with an amateur detective named Melrose Plant, but the relationship is kept very low-key and it doesn’t jar with the more factually-based aspects of the stories. 

And there’s nothing unrealistic about the one that got away.  That happens to real policemen in real police departments all the time. 

The idea of a cop who won’t give up on the one that got away isn’t inherently unrealistic either.  There are enough true crime books out there about just that to make it practically a trope of real life, if real life can have tropes.

And, I have to admit it–I kind of enjoyed having the guy back.  He’s an interesting character on a lot of different levels.

I am, I know, sounding very contradictory and conflicted.  Maybe that’s the eye thing.  I don’t know.

I just know that this isn’t working for me, and I don’t know why. 

And the character does continue to the next book, which seems to be the one that’s out now.  And I’d read that one, except that I had a look through it in the store, and it did that thing with the extra-wide margins and the extra space between lines and the bigger print that publishers do when they want to make a book appear longer than it really is.

I coule have principled objections to something like that, but I don’t, really.  I just find books designed that way to be hard to read, and I’d rather wait forthe paperback and be comfortable.

Of course, sometimes they do that with paperbacks, and then I don’t read the book.

Ack.  My eye is still all gunked up, and I want to go somewhere and put ice on it.

Jury duty tomorrow, which, in Connecticut, lasts only a single day.

Some things, this state does do well.

Written by janeh

August 3rd, 2010 at 6:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses to 'Continuing Characters'

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  1. I never really liked Grimes’ books, although I read a number of them. (I seem to be an omnivorous reader, and I suspect I have company here.) There’s something about the faux English setting that gets to me, and Plant in particular seems fake and uninteresting. Jury’s not much better.

    I’ve been called for jury duty twice, I think. Twice for sure. Both times, the Sheriff’s Office, which runs such things here, called me ahead of time to tell me the trial was off – either settled out of court, or with a plea bargain, they didn’t say. Now, that’s the way to do jury duty!

    Some people, even local people, find the idea that we have a High Sheriff running a Sheriff’s Office a little odd. Sheriffs should be riding the prairie chasing cattle rustlers down in the US, or plotting against Robin Hood in the UK. But that’s what we have here, and it’s always an effort for me to remember how many r’s and f’s are in ‘sheriff’.


    3 Aug 10 at 6:30 am

  2. One of the minor disappointments of my life is that I have never even been eligible for jury duty, let alone been called up. It sounds like the perfect diversion for retired or semi-retired auld pharts lucky enough to have retained all their faculties.


    3 Aug 10 at 8:23 am

  3. I used to really like Grimes’ books, but have sort of wandered away from the series. Not sure why.

    I’ve only been called to jury duty once. I was chosen as an alternate and then the suit was settled and we were sent home. One of the guys who works for me was called to jury duty yesterday. He was convinced that he’d never get called to be on a jury because his wife manages the parole officers in their county. But he still had to go there and sit.


    3 Aug 10 at 9:45 am

  4. But Jane! If you get picked for a case that lasts longer than one day, you have to serve till it’s over, don’t you? Do it! Do it! Get on a nice long case and tell us all about it.

    Just a little request from the peanut gallery.


    3 Aug 10 at 10:35 am

  5. Ooo, Jury Duty! As the spouse and publisher of the Skeptical Juror, we’re always looking for good jury stories.

    I get called regularly, but cannot serve because the current courthouse does not comply with the ADA. Imagine that. Can’t get into the jury room or box in a wheelchair. The new courthouse should be built by 2014. I did serve once in Michigan, before I moved to CA.

    My husband has been called about 10 times, and has served on four felony juries. BTW, the second Skeptical Juror book is now on Kindle. It’ll be released in print in a few weeks.

    Mique? Why are you not eligible?


    3 Aug 10 at 2:47 pm

  6. Hmmm. Seems to me I remember another mystery novel in which the villain got clean away. But there has been no follow-up, and the detective never refered to the case again. CONSPIRACY THEORY? Author’s last name began with an “H”?


    3 Aug 10 at 3:09 pm

  7. Mique? Why are you not eligible?

    As a young adult, I was an articled law clerk, by law ineligible to serve on juries. Then I was a teacher in a remote village in PNG. After that I was in the Air Force for umptyump years, again exempt from jury service by law, we being liable to be deployed or reassigned at the proverbial moment’s notice. Finally, I became too deaf.


    3 Aug 10 at 7:34 pm

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