In The Anodyne Necklace by Martha Grimes, the reader joins Inspector Richard Jury to solve crimes that revolve around the small town of Littlebourne. The first oddity that is spotted in Littlebourne is a dog who seems to be carrying around a bone, except upon further examination the bone is found to be a human finger. The scene than immediately transforms to London’s Underground where a young girl is playing her violin to try to save up money for new clothes. The audience is falsely led to believe that Grimes is creating a contrast between the two very different scenes until all of a sudden, the girl falls into a coma—only after a rough beating. Grimes starts her novel as a thriller, introducing fast paced crime and murder simultaneously, interweaving a complicated plot from the moment the story starts. The plot thickens when Jury reaches Littlebourne where he must help to find the body with the missing fingers. He finds a young girl in the woods who had her fingers chopped off after being murdered. Jury also finds out that the members of the town are being harassed by a mystery writer who is sending them colorful, cruel letters transcribed in crayons. The only way for Jury to solve this case is to call in his friend, Melrose Plant, and work together to not only sort through the massive list of suspects but try to connect all of the crimes.
Grimes was able to revive a classic British mystery with the twist of a police procedural throughout.1 The Anodyne Necklace is written from a third person, omniscient, point of view, but for most chapters focus on Inspector Richard Jury. Jury is a passionate, determined, police officer who will go to any lengths to solve the case. Having an inspector as the main detective is key because the whole story is based around how the police department does and does not work. Grimes was also writing for a series, The Anodyne Necklace being the third book in the series after The Man with a Load of Mischief and The Old Fox Deciev’d.2 The Anodyne Necklace shows its importance by having a traditionally British style mystery, since it is placed in Britain and has the same set of a cosy, written by an American author. Who chose to include pieces of a police procedural throughout to reach the “traditionalists and the young lions” of the mystery fan base.1 Grimes wrote an enjoyable novel with a completely unexpected plot twist at the end- the biggest issue with the novel is how long it took to get there.
The Anodyne Necklace is 303 pages long. Yet, the only riveting parts of the book happen in the first fifty pages and the last fifty pages. Grimes does continue to loop back to the central themes, still, when action happens so quickly at the very beginning and then stops – readers lose interest. A reader simply does not need to know where every character is all of the time. A character riding past on her horse, the name of a cat, or a whole description on the best places to watch birds is not necessary to the plot,simply just long syntax for readers to digest.
Another detail that comes with being in a small-town detective story is the amount of characters that are listed. Every other page a new character is being named and a whole description of them is included shortly afterward. The book is very fair because the readers have an equal shot as the detective to solve the case, since they know everyone involved in it. But, to keep track of so many people is taxing since one is made to feel that everyone is could be a suspect. I highly recommend as you are reading to have a list of people’s names, and how they are related to the case.
Without this list, one might spend way too much time going back into the book to connect a name that might show up fifty pages apart and figure out how they fit into this new scene. Even with an abundance of characters, with most not being necessary, a few show the modern age of detective writing. The biggest difference, that would not be shown in older detective fiction, is how Grimes has a genius, hardworking little girl as one of her main characters. This little girl, Emily Louise, is shown to be a clear equal to Plant and helps Jury solve the case. Different women, like Mrs. Marple and Kinsey Millhone and even girl detective Nancy Drew, have been shown in detective fiction.3 It is still refreshing, as a reader, to see a young girl having the same abilities as the male detective no matter her sex or age. The whole treatment of women is vastly different throughout this novel. Grimes finds subtle ways to debunk sexism and show the equality of all sexes.
” ‘Could it have been a woman?’ asked Jury of the medical examiner.
Her every word was dipped in acid : ‘Could it have been a woman? Yes, Superintendent. You’ll find that we can do all sorts of things — dress ourselves, ride two-wheelers, do murders” (32).
Inspector Jury himself even becomes aware of the feminist issue and points it out.
“As the train swayed through the black tunnel, he thought it was nice that equal rights for women predominated even among dips” (146).
One of the most interesting writing choices in this novel is based on point of view. A reader does not follow around the detective, Jury, throughout the novel. Some chapters the reader is only following Emily, Melrose or just being in the town. This can be frustrating because the reader can miss out on Jury’s conclusions or ideas about the case since Jury is not present. On the other side, this causes the reader to become the detective themselves because they have to put together different clues wherever the narrator happens to be.
The Anodyne Necklace fits perfectly in the detective and mystery fiction genre, with a focus in police procedurals. The novel is logically complicated with characters and situations that emotionally connect with the audience. Grimes writes smoothly, with great variation in syntax, and vocabulary. Still, the book is long. For this reason alone, I rate The Anodyne Necklace a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Having a logically great book with a prolonged plot leads readers to become bored in the middle of the novel. If your looking for a longer book, with still an innovative plot and characters, this book is for you!
1. Davis, J. Madison. “Tough guys with long legs: the global popularity of the hard-boiled style.” World Literature Today, vol. 78, no. 1, 2004, p. 36+. Academic OneFile, link.galegroup.com.hoover2.mcdaniel.edu:2048/apps/doc/A112247763/AONE?u=west41605&sid=AONE&xid=43c83c6b. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.
2.Vide, Marko.The Official Website of Martha Grimes.http://www.marthagrimes.com/. Accessed 2 December 2017.
3.McCabe, Jess. “Top 10 female detectives.” Theguardian, 29 April 2011,https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/apr/29/top-10-female-detectives-zen. Accessed 2 December 2017.
4. Grimes, Martha. The Anodyne Necklace. Little, Brown, 1983.
5. Chapman, Richard. 1999, photo, Chicago Sun- Times.
6. “The Anodyne Necklace.” FantasticFiction, https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/martha-grimes/anodyne-necklace.htm. Accessed 2 December 2017.
7. “The Anodyne Necklace (Richard Jury).” Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Anodyne-Necklace-Richard-Jury/dp/0316328820. Accessed 2 December 2017.
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