The Old Wine Shades

April 8, 2008 - The Old Wine Shades (Martha Grimes). A man walks into a pub and starts spinning a story that leads Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury onto his next case. It's a recent installment in the series from Martha Grimes.

The Old Wine Shades picks up where the previous book, The Winds of Change, left off. Jury is in danger of being suspended from his job. He walks into a London pub and has a couple of beers. A man named Harry Johnson comes in and sits next to him. They talk, and Harry tells Jury about his friend, Hugh Gault. Several months ago, he says, Gault's wife, son and dog went to Surrey on a house-hunting expedition. They all disappeared but, recently, Harry says, the dog came back.

Over the next several nights, Jury and Harry - and the dog, Mungo - continue to meet for dinner and drinks. Harry continues his tale that evolves into stories within stories and detours into the world of physics. Jury is enthralled but, when he repeats the tale to Melrose Plant and just about anyone else who will listen, they're more skeptical. People just can't be nowhere, can they?

Jury, who's not suspended from the Yard but who doesn't have any official investigations on his plate, starts looking for physical proof to support Harry's story. Eventually, a body turns up. It's not the body he expected, but it's the body that helps him solve the case even if he doesn't quite get his man.

Overall, The Old Wine Shades kept me entertained. The stories within stories were just as enthralling for me as they were for Jury. Even the references to physics and superstring theory and the like were entertaining. And, as always, Grimes surrounds Jury with an interesting cast of new and familiar characters.

However, I was troubled by a couple of things. For one, there's a scene where she makes a point of saying exactly who is there, then suddenly another character is heard from. A bit of sloppy editing, I'd say. And, I was bothered by the animation Grimes bestowed on the dog, Mungo. Namely, he seemed to be kind of a psychic, able to send and receive thoughts from people both near and far. In The Grave Maurice, Grimes gave us a peek at the inner thoughts of horses. There, it seemed dignified and appropriate. Here, the device seems fanciful and distracting.