Chief Inspector Michael Haggerty asks Richard Jury to prove brewing magnate Oliver Tynedale's granddaughter is an impostor. Excavation of Tynedale's bombed London pub, the Blue Last, has turned up two skeletons – was the child found his real granddaughter? Meanwhile Melrose Plant reluctantly poses as an under gardener to investigate the nanny who purportedly saved the baby's life.
Taking a winter break in the Yorkshire moors and staying at The Old Silent Inn, Superintendent Richard Jury witnesses a most perplexing murder. Fascinated by the lovely widow of the victim, Jury is sufficiently intrigued to undertake his own unofficial and very unpopular investigation.
The 18th novel in Martha Grimes's popular Richard Jury series finds the author extending her range, echoing the work of two other masters of mystery – osephine Tey and Dick Francis – while skewering British society with a droll, rapier wit.
The fun starts with Jury lying in a hospital bed, recuperating from the bullet wound he received at the end of The Blue Last. In a scene reminiscent of Tey's classic hospital bed mystery, The Daughter of Time, a bored, frustrated Jury is overjoyed when his assistant, Melrose Plant, arrives with a proffered mystery. While in the local pub, called the Grave Maurice, Plant overhears a conversation concerning the disappearance of teenager Nell Ryder, the daughter of Jury's surgeon. Nell vanished two years earlier from the family horse farm, but there are rumors she's been seen riding at midnight on her favorite mare. On Jury's orders, Plant enters the occasionally bizarre world of horse racing. There he meets Nell's cousin, Maurice, a grave lad plagued by an adolescent growth spurt that's left him too tall to be a jockey, his only dream since he was a boy. The eccentric suspects start piling up, as do the murders, as Jury is eventually released from the hospital and enters the fray. Grimes, perhaps overcompensating for entering the equestrian universe dominated by Dick Francis, spends a bit too much time giving us the minute details of horse breeding. However, the offbeat characters – especially a demanding nurse who infuriates Jury – are so likable they soon smooth over any bumps in the narrative road. The Grave Maurice is a strange and unique amalgam of satire and mystery that works on most levels, thanks to the author's sure and talented hand. Tom Piccirilli