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Publisher's Summary

Following a passionate and troubled love affair with a pretty widow named Jane Holdsworth, Jury finds himself, unaccountably, a suspect in a murder investigation. Detained in London, Jury sends his friend Melrose Plant, former Earl of Caverness, to the Holdsworth family's Lake District home to pose as an eccentric librarian. Plant discovers that his catalogue cards contain less data on Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey than they do on tantalizing questions about the Holdsworths: What happened to Crabbe Holdsworth's first wife? What happened to his son, Graham? What happened to the cook Annie? And what might happen to the two children, favorites of rich old Adam Holdworth, who prefers the ambience of a swank retirement home, Castle Howe, where he and the elegant Lady Cray can drive the staff crazy? Jury and Sergeant Wiggins finally join Melrose at the Old Contemptibles pub, where they arrive at a solution that Jury detests, for no matter what he does, innocence will suffer.
©1991 Martha Grimes (P)2014 Simon & Schuster
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Waverley on 02-12-16

The introduction of fascinating new characters!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Old Contemptibles to be better than the print version?

Absolutely! Due to the vocally dexterous narrator, Steve West. He brings the characters life and his rendition of Aunt Agatha has me falling out of my chair laughing!

Who was your favorite character and why?

They are all colorful and engaging; although, if I must pick would be Melrose Plant ( former Earl of Caverness). He is a good-natured and intelligent chap who is quick to lend a hand and not very quick to take the credit. Plus, he exhibits amazing grace in putting-up with his detestable Aunt Agatha.

Which scene was your favorite?

I love the scene where the interesting cleptomaniac transfers the letters to Melrose.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

All of the books in this series evoke the gamete of emotions: I cried a little and laughed often.

Any additional comments?

It is best to start at the beginning of the series; one can't help but develope a crush on the regular characters. This is a particularly moving book in the series.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Linda Lou on 02-28-14


What would have made The Old Contemptibles better?

If Richard Jury would grow up. This story takes place about 10 years after the first on in this series and Jury seems to be getting dumber and more juvenile, I listened to the first 3 books, eager for another great series of mysteries in the genre made famous by Agatha Christie. But books 4 and 5 did nothing to advance the characters. So I decided to "fast-forward" to Book 11, knowing that authors get better and better at their craft the more they write. Not so here.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Steve West?

There's nothing really wrong with West except that, outside English accents, he drops the ball. A narrator like Simon Vance, John Lee or Simon Vance can make the telephone book sound interesting. I don't feel that West is vested in this series so his narration is lackadaisical.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Old Contemptibles?

The scenes where secondary characters "muse" on something that happened in the past. JUST TELL US! Who needs all of the theatrics? And the narrator's delivery is so flat during these mental flashbacks that it made me sleepy!

Any additional comments?

I don't see why other listeners and readers like these book so much. I bought them and stuck it out based on the Member Reviews. But these books are not as good as proclaimed. I began reading Agatha Christie books, which are the "Gold Standard" of this genre. I can read Hercule Poirot 5 or 6 times and the stories never get old. Plus it is not enough to weave a good plot with twists, turns and red herrings. The main and reoccurring characters must grow and develop into mature people and more knowledgeable in their field. Scotland Yard's Richard Jury, now a Superintendent up from Inspector, is awful in this 11th book. Ten years older, he takes up with a bunch of female "hood rats", falling in love with a neurotic, unstable, broke mother of a 16 year-old son being raised by someone else. She's in his bed an hour after they met in some secondhand shop. After several non-substantive sex romps, Jury is in love, buying a ring and talking about moving in together. He knows nothing about the woman but suspects much based on her pill bottles and secrecy. But, an experienced Scotland Yard detective doesn't to the same due diligence that he would run on a suspect or family member of a murdered person? That makes no sense! Jury is not a teenager or man in his early 20s whose "big head is ruled by the little one".

None of these books tell exactly when the story takes place but one of the earlier books mentioned actor Robert Redford and this installment talks about the 1975 film "One Over Flew Over a The Cuckoo's Nest" so the reader can tell the story doesn't take place in Victorian or Regency England or even during the early 20th century. I find this whole having to figure "What Time Is It?" aspect to be a stupid waste of the reader's time. Grimes researches everything else in her books. I still remember an excruciatingly boring pool game (in "Jerusalem Inn", I believe) among expert players where Grimes gave a blow by blow account of every shot, chalking of the cues, etc.! But she can't tell us in which period these stories occur?!

My favorite character from the very first book is the titled Melrose Plant, an earl, who becomes Jury's "wing man" in the rest of the books. But here, Plant is acting like a flighty teenager running around Italy with another good character, his gay friend Marshall Trueblood. Both men are more silly than any grown people should be after 11 books! There are much better such series like Dorothy Gilman's "Mrs. Polifax", M.C. Beaton's "Agatha Raisin", even the Birmingham, Alabama sisters in Anne George's books. Anyone who has read ALL the books in these series cannot think that Martha Grimes is a real player in this genre. She (or a bunch of ghost writers) are punching out a book or two a year! The rush is evident in the final product. I know a lot of this author's fans will not find this review "Helpful" and I'm alright with that. I am a prolific reader so I know the difference between what I "like" and what is really a literary masterpiece. I just call it as I see it - no one has to agree. To me there are no "bad" books, only those which we don't care for. I only wish someone had given an opinion like this so I could have saved my money!

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11 of 18 people found this review helpful

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