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Williamson said, “Oswald was at Bletchley Park during the war. He was really into it, very high up. I wasn’t so much; my work was small potatoes by comparison. Your name came up – that is, he thought of you when I was visiting him one evening in Chelsea. It’s about my wife, Tess.”
“Your wife?” Jury looked over his shoulder, quite stupidly, as if he expected to find Tess there, behind their chairs.
Somehow, Jury had known that, even as he turned to look for her.
“Seventeen years ago.” He paused long enough to have counted every one. “We had – I still have – a house in Devon, very large, too large for us, certainly. Woods, extensive gardens, tiered and rather Italianate, I suppose, and too much to maintain, even with the gardener, who’s been there for years. But Tess wasn’t really interested in bringing it back, as they say, to its former glory. She liked the unrulinessmof it, the wildness. She was a bit of a romantic, Tess.” …
Melrose ignored that and walked on. “So you’re off to Exeter tomorrow? Say hello to Brian Macalvie for me.”
“I will.” Over lunch, Jury had told Melrose about the death of Tess Williamson. “Her husband wants me to see this house, Laburnum.”
“A name suggesting poison. Were it mine, I’d change it.”
“I’m sure you would. You’re always changing names.”
from: Vertigo 42
A Perfect Little World
Richard Jury is in his 40s – and he stays in his 40s (or moving towards beginning 50s) since about 40 years. The same is valid for all people around him: they stay almost as they appear for the first time. It’s a small world of protagonists accompanying Jury whenever he sets out to investigate a murder or the fate of a missing person.
Jury works at Scotland Yard with Wiggins, his DS, in his wake. He isn’t on so good terms with his boss, Chief Super Racer, an egomaniac, but Racer’s PA Fiona is always supporting him. (… and I don’t forget to mention that there is also a cat on the premises i. e. around Racer’s office always causing trouble for Racer.) Alongside there are some good friends from police units in England who always like to help Jury resp. ask his advice.
The inspector lives in an one-bedroom flat in London having established special relationships to his neighbors especially a young attractive woman, called Carole-Ann, who likes to help with down-to-earth tips whenever Jury struggles with special evidence e. g. concerning fashion etc. There is also a survivor of WWII’s concentration camps for whom Jury cares with special diligence.
Coming now to the more illustrious entourage … Melrose Plant (Lord Ardry, Earl of Caverness – he has given up all his titles) is rich, well mannered and well educated. He’s got a country estate, domestics and is the leader of the Long Piddleton gang, some well off people whose main achievement for each day seems to be at the local pub for happy hour. He’s got also some family: an especially awkward aunt (an in-law) who would like to become Melrose’s heir … sooner taper than later. They all together live in Long Piddleton resp. somewhere around this picturesque village.
All these folks of Long Piddleton around Jury enjoy their lives, try to have fun or whatever and get in on any investigation Jury is up to. Apart from this there isn’t much change or distraction in their lives. Get the idea: they are always busy with an idea or more, but nothing substantial ever happens.
Jury’s cases … The excerpt above shows a typical scene for starting an investigation. There seem to be these old-boy networks – always, family connections, Oxbridge relations … and I remember vividly that these society relationships play an important role – not to forget the nobility. In the background these people pull the strings – whatever strings are important. In a way the novels revive an England that is very popular especially abroad with readers of classic English crime fiction.
Back to the cases: all cases ensure murders. There is always a tricky network of lies and truth is deeply buried in the past. Jury has to dig around, talking to many people … until he gets a clue. Of course he always solves his cases even if the evildoer is a very, very clever person.
His friend Melrose is always involved – at least I cannot remember any novel where Melrose isn’t involved. Both met in the very first investigation of the series. Both are about the same age and both are single. Women: both like women and the women like them, too. Unfortunately never a relationship develops that survives some weeks or months; furthermore some women, with whom Melrose would like to start an affair, are fully in love with Jury … or vice versa. So both men unites a sad love life.
Some aspects of modern life have entered Jury’s world e. g. a mobile phone and computers. Also there seems to be some crime scene investigation, the scientific way, in the background now and then. In general Jury relies on his well-tried methods of investigation i. e. talking to people, following subtle leads, drawing strange conclusions and sometimes getting help from informants with a more sinister reputation.
The cases are suspense-packed and complex. It’s no longer an exclusive dealing with elaborate murders, but more dirty crime aspects garnish the cases. Jury and his friend Melrose, the nobleman, are a casual team with a lot of mutual respect and trust in each other. The whole entourage – if London based, if Long Piddleton based – is just what rounds it off. There are ridiculous maneuvers, obscure views of anything concerning daily life, humourous interludes brightening up the novels.
The little perfect world of Richard Jury will not stop to exist. There will be new cases, there will also be new ideas growing out of the Long Middleton gang.