Fans of Martha Grimes will know that the Lamorna Wink must be a British pub, and one to which Superintendent Richard Jury or his aristocratic sidekick Melrose Plant can be counted on to repair in the process of solving a mystery or two. This time, with Jury off in Ireland, Plant takes the starring role. His vacation in picturesque Bletchley on the Cornwall coast is very nearly ruined by the coincidental appearance of his dreaded Aunt Agatha. Ironically, however, he is drawn to the plight of a young man, Johnny Wells, whose favorite aunt has disappeared suddenly without trace. In spite of Agatha, Plant decides to lease a house owned by an American millionaire whose two grandchildren died tragically on the beach a few years before. Within a day or so, a new dead body is found in neighboring Lamorna: that of Sada Colthorp, a young woman who had lived in the area but left to dabble in porn movies. Plant and divisional police commander Brian Macalvie (Help the Poor Struggler
) believes there's a link between Colthorp and the missing Chris Wells. When the pieces start to come together (and a fast string of violence ensues), Jury makes a token appearance to tie up the remaining loose ends. But the day really belongs to Plant, who is becoming much more than an accidental detective, and to Macalvie, a character with an appeal that may eclipse even Jury's.
As always, Grimes provides comic relief at the expense of a tight plot by checking in with the myriad other characters who populate Plant's Long Piddleton and Jury's London. The impatient reader may wonder when, if ever, Plant and friends will cease their juvenile heckling of Vivian Rivington's Italian count. The final explanation of the children's deaths, however, will leave the most stoic mystery fan feeling distinctly queasy. That Grimes can so effectively amuse, shock, intrigue, and even irritate after 16 books bodes well for the continuing life of the series. --Barrie Trinkle