This novel is the fifth volume in the Inspector Jury series. As usual, this American writer has set her cozy crime novel around an old British pub in the countryside.
A taste of Martha Grimes´ style:
“It was on a windy December day, with only five of them left until Christmas, that Jury saw the sparrows quarreling in a nearby hedge as he stood looking though the gates of Washington Old Hall. The sparrows – one attempting to escape, the other in hot pursuit – flew from hedge to tree to hedge. The pecking of one had bloodied the breast of the other. He was used to scenes of carnage; still he was shocked. But didn´t it go on everywhere?”
Inspector Richard Jury happens to meet the beautiful but mysterious Helen Minton in a graveyard where she studies the gravestones, taking notes in a gold-covered notebook. She tells him about her interesting place of work, Washington Old Hall. The following day Jury goes to see the place (or the lady?) only to discover that Helen Minton has just been murdered.
At the same time, some of Jury´s friends, including the nobleman Melrose Plant, are staying at Spinney Abbey, near the pub Jerusalem Inn where he watches a snooker tournament. Another murder takes place in Spinneyton, and as the two crimes are related, Richard Jury is involved in both cases. As usual Melrose Plant is pleased to lend his friend a hand – and escape the boredom of the affluent bachelor gentleman for a while.
Other pieces of the puzzle are a blizzard, and – not quite unexpected – a neglected, little girl who is far too wise for her age, plus a number of orphans. As connoisseurs of traditional, British crime may have guessed, Martha Grimes´ series has much in common with Dorothy L. Sayers´ Lord Peter Wimsey series and Elizabeth George´s Inspector Lynley series with its romantic depiction of ´England´s green and pleasant land´ (to quote one of the faithful participants in my bait game – and William Blake).