Book Review: The Knowledge by Martha Grimes

May 29, 2020 Book Reviews 0

Book Review: The Knowledge by Martha Grimes

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Knowledge by Martha Grimes
Genres: British, Detective, Mystery
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press on April 3, 2018
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: the library

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Twenty-fourth in the Richard Jury mystery series revolving around a detective superintendent at New Scotland Yard whose friendship with not-an-earl Melrose Plant adds such layers of fun.

My Take

I love the brotherhood of these cab drivers! I remember my first trip to London with my husband telling me about the tests the black cab drivers had to pass, and that I would never be rooked by one of them.

Those kids are good, but I don’t understand why or how they work for the cab drivers?? What do they do for them? As for Patty. Wow. I wanna know what her IQ is because she is one amazing, sharp-witted LITTLE girl. Self-assured, open to new places and people, and thinks on her feet. I wonder what her home life is like?

Be wareful, for Grimes throws us into the story and then draws back a few days, making the victims all the sadder. And as much as I loved Jury’s encounter with the Moffits, it didn’t ring true. Although I did love the sound of that glass-roofed treehouse. As for the contrast between those mothers…! Pfft, one is an absolute dream of a mom while the other is such a shark! The death of the Moffits simply broke my heart, thinking of a world deprived of such a wonderful couple. At least we get to have Patty, lol.

It’s an intriguing idea that Sherlock saw an organic whole and not just bits and pieces, that he “observed”. Jury’s analogy to Michelangelo’s carving of David was a brilliant sidestep.

Ahh, it’s envy, that is, as DCI Jenkins rolls out a list of the cars on the Dubai police force: Lamborghinis, BMWs, Aston Martins, Bentleys… I’m trying to imagine the police car park.

Whoa, we got a nice bit of back history on Marshall Trueblood. That boy has got some hidden depths. That game he invented in school, Razorbite, ouch. As for Melrose…he’s intelligent, self-centered, self-absorbed, but he is interested. He is not your typical lord. Nor a typical Englishman.

Crack me up.

“But the color, on a short-term loan from Hollywood, faded and left behind the daily sweep of drab shrubs and grass bleached by the sun to near-transparency…”

And Jury is buying artwork! Meanwhile, Plant is being inducted into The Knowledge. And…sigh…Plant is still oblivious to Vivian, no matter how carefully Jury plans that Orient Express trip.

Now that drawer full of broken light bulbs is a clever idea. I know I’m not interested in putting my hand in there!

Grimes uses a third person global subjective point-of-view alternating primarily between Jury’s, Plant’s, and Patty’s perspectives. Very handy as it takes us along on Melrose’s safari as well as Jury’s investigation and Patty’s travels. We do gain a perspective from some of the other characters as well.

There is action in the story, but it’s really about the characters — sweethearts, oblivious but well-meaning, manipulative, sneaky, and a few scum.

My primary issue with The Knowledge is Jury’s attitude throughout. He’s so easygoing and not very coplike or a typical Englishman. In fact, he feels more like an American than not. Plant didn’t feel true to previous stories either. It’s either me and not having read a Richard Jury in ages or they are off.

Other than the personality changes, it’s a funny, superficial read that explores the knowledge every black cab driver must have with more twists and turns than old London streets. I’m not even gonna mention all the red herrings…

The Story

It was a lucky chance encounter at the Starrdust in which Richard Jury met David Moffit. One that led to a convivial evening with the gambling professor and his brilliant wife. So when Jury discovers they’ve been murdered he inserts himself into the case.

Turns out that deer can see a blue we can’t. And poor Wiggins is flummoxed by this new insight Jury has.

The Characters

London

Detective Superintendent Richard Jury is with CID in New Scotland Yard. Carole-anne Palutski usually masquer…er, works at the Starrdust, but she can be anything at all. She’s always Richard’s upstairs neighbor. Phyllis Nancy is a girlfriend as well as a forensic pathologist.

Long Piddleton, Northamptonshire, England, is…
…the village where Melrose Plant lives in his country house, Ardry End. He is probably Jury’s best friend and a former earl (he gave up his title). For excitement, he helps Jury out on his cases. Ruthven is his butler; Martha is his cook; Pippin is a maid; Blodgett is the gardener; and, Aghast is the goat.

Marshall Trueblood is an antique dealer in the village and one of the drinkers who gather at the Jack and Hammer, which is owned by Dick Scroggs. Patty isn’t the only one with “relatives” we didn’t know before — his great-uncle was a well-regarded Kenyan painter named Abu Kabiga. Uh-huh. Others in the group include Vivian Rivington, Joanna Lewes is a romance writer, and Diane Memorney who drips with facts, usually only one per topic. Miss Twinney is the village librarian. “Count Dracula”, a.k.a., Franco Giopinno, was an Italian Vivian had been dating and whom the group hated. Alain Resnais may be a new one.

Dr David Moffit and his wife, Rebecca, are visiting London and her self-absorbed mother, Claire Howard. An astrophysicist, he teaches physics and astronomy at Columbia University and is a well-known gambler. Paula Moffit is David’s beloved mom, a widow. Charlie is Paula’s Hungarian cook; Penny is her maid. Mrs Shriver owns an isolated cabin.

New Scotland Yard
The hypochondriacal Detective Sergeant (DS) Alfred Wiggins is Jury’s partner. Seems he is also the last Tweedears, a baron de jure, or so says Owen Lamb, a genealogist from Baltimore. There also seems to be a Fitz-Hugh Wykham (later Wiggins), ninth baron de jure. And I’m not sure how these two connect… Cyril is the department cat. Detective Chief Superintendent Racer hates Jury. And Cyril. The sexy Fiona Clingmore is Racer’s secretary.

Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Dennis Jenkins is on-scene at the Artemis Club. He works with DS Nora Greene. Barbara Porter is the Arts and Antiques Unit, although her specialty is botany. WPC Lois Watkins has her moments.

The Starrdust is…
…based in Covent Garden and is owned by Andrew Starr, an admired and respected astrologer. Meg and Joy are shop assistants who do amazing things with the shop’s windows. Madame Zostra, the famous clairvoyant (known as Carole-anne) works out of a silver tent in the shop.

Harry Johnson is a physicist from The Old Wine Shades, 20; Mungo is the dog at the bar and Trevor is the barman. Simon Parkington works at the Park Lane Hotel. Mr Gibbons is the manager of an art gallery in South Kensington of which Mr Tallow is the owner. Jane Holdsworth had been a widow in The Old Contemptibles, 11. Aubrey is a porter at Boring’s, Plant’s mens club. Young Higgins is their head porter and the oldest one. Major Champs and Colonel Neame are some of the more permanent members. Bea Slocum is a talented artist friend of Plant’s and lives with the Crippses (Rainbow’s End, 13). The now deceased Sarah had been Jury’s cousin; her husband, Brendan, is still alive in Newcastle. Pete Apted is a good lawyer who loves weird cases. Karl Mundt.

The Artemis Club is…
…a highly exclusive casino. You can’t even get in without an appointment! Leonard Zane owns the club and is a well-known art dealer with a gallery in the club. Maggie Benn is Zane’s assistant who vets the callers. Jim is Zane’s chauffeur. Max. Henri Bergeron is another of the artists in Zane’s gallery.

The black cabs of London
Robbie Parsons has been a taxi driver with that highly desirable black cab for the past thirty-five years. Other drivers, some of them Robbie’s friends, include Brendan Small, James, Reggie Reeves, Clive Rowbotham, Janet Swift, Kevin O’Malley, Michaelson, Jonah, Ray Rich, Ben Churchill, Reg Keene, Minnie Huff, Cliff Nugent, Reed Keane, and Billy Burnsides who had tried to get his grandfather in. It’s that Brian Moore who throws the cabbies for a loop.

The kids — they all want to be cops — who are working for the cab drivers including Henry, who is a dip; Martin; nine-year-old Suki rips off meals with her dog, Reno; the pocket-picking Aero is amazing on a skateboard as well as on the wheels-up shoes his friend Jules, a cobbler, made for him; Jimmy; and, the fearless ten-year-old Patty Haigh who can do anything, absolutely anything. As Robbie says: “Looks like a little girl, but acts like MI6.” Aunt Monique is a useful invention, as is Prince Ramakudu, Patty’s brothers Conrad and Randy, and Uncle BB. I’m not sure who Inez and Clara are, foster kids? I’ll bet they don’t know they exist, lol. Nor do her foster parents Freddie and Marie Umbijawa. Maureen is the snarky waitress at the City Café. The party will be held at the Daybreak Café.

The Knowledge is…
…a completely autonomous pub created by Maurice Benbow, a black cab driver himself. One that only cab drivers are allowed to know the location. Ben is the dog who “led” Maurice to the building. Conrad Coover is one of his driver friends.

B.B., a.k.a., Bushiri Banerjee, is the shooter.

Nairobi, Kenya

Masego Abasi is a brilliant painter. Patty reminds Abasi of a young girl he used to know “Little Rita”. Alala is a young girl from Kibera, a slum. Another Bushiri Banerjee is a wealthy industrialist. Elspeth Banado is his wife.

The Nairobi PD
Chief Inspector Kato Kione likes the idea of “Lord Ardry”.

Mbosi Luxury Tented Camp gives…
…safari trips. The guests include the hideous AttaboysMitchell and Mildred are the parents; Etta is the decent grandmother; and, the kids are the bored Mona and rotten Little Mitchell; Sally Sly and her eight-year-old daughter, Savannah; the very large Mrs Rose Campanelli from Outer Otter; Bobbi North and her teenage son, Jefferson; and, the obnoxious Donald and his unnamed wife. Trish and Ernest Van der Moot are their hosts. Their employees include Lumbai, Montre is a driver, and Danglo is a tracker.

Tanzania

Inspector Benjamin Buhari is with the Tanzanian police and is Bushiri’s brother. Benjamin had a daughter, Marguerite, but the mother walked out on them both. President Nyerere became the first president of Tanzania.

Joe-Dan’s Bar and Grill is in Namanga. Merelani contains most of the small mines in Block D. Sayko Adisa is the manager of the Blue Vein mine. Abi is one of the young kids who works the mine.

Reno, Nevada

Danny Morrissey was shot at the Metropole, a casino a Leonard Zane had in Reno. Marguerite Banado had been Zane’s assistant and a gambling addict.

Back in the day

At St Eglantine’s, Trueblood’s public school, the second-best player of Razorbite was Conleith Murdock, who was also good at poker. Hoskins and Stewart were good on the metal table. That idiotic Rupert Thorne was lousy at the game. Carruthers was very good at tennis. Mr Atkins/Adkins is the sports master. Mr Nigby is the headmaster.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a white background with a faint gray map of London on it. The author’s name is in black in the top third.The title is in gold with the series info just below it across the middle. Below this is a black London cab, shot up.

The title is the name of a pub and a life-altering test, The Knowledge.

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