“The Knowledge” by Martha Grimes is book twenty-four in the Richard Jury series. The story begins in London on Friday, November 1, and traverses across the city and several continents at a frantic pace. Grimes reaches out and pulls in the reader right from the first line.
“He was a dead man and he knew it.”
Robbie Parsons drives a prestigious Black Cab, but he was shocked when shots ring out and the killer jumps into his cab. A fast-paced frantic chase through London ensues with the cabbies and the assistance of unusual “extra” helpers, local street children. After a frenzied drive seemingly nowhere, the passenger, and murderer of two people, abruptly puts the gun away, pays the fare, and gets out.
Meanwhile, Detective Superintendent Richard Jury, New Scotland Yard CID, is shocked when he reads the newspaper headline: Couple Shot Outside Trendy London Club. He had met this couple a few nights earlier at a local club. As the city police and Scotland Yard scramble to find the killer, the challenging question is “Why were they killed?” Money? Revenge? Love? None of the usual motives seems to fit this bizarre murder. Even Jury is muddled. “Superintendent, you have a way of speaking in riddles.”
Jury, however, is the consummate investigator, digging for truth and answers, question and requesting everyone.
“What? I didn’t tell you everything? You think I was lyin’?”
“Not at all. But no one ever tells us ‘all he knows’ because you don’t know all you know.”
Occasionally a bit of humor is thrown in at the expense of TV. “We should have a murder board, sir. We’ve been through all of that, Wiggins. And it’s a whiteboard. Don’t talk like we’re a TV cop show.”
The story is not linear, and the action moves from one place to another, from one perspective to another, and from one time to another. As details about the couple come out, the conspiracy moves across continents from the United States to Africa. Flashbacks fill in the background and details, and each chapter is identified with the date and location.
All the characters are well developed and interesting. Everyday details and ordinary happenings are interspersed throughout the book. Casual conversations set the tone and give glimpses into their personalities. Characters are real, believable, and readers like them.
London’s black cab drivers play a key role in the resolution of the mystery, and they provide the title of the book. Since London is complicated to navigate, black cab drivers must pass a rigorous geographic test, claimed to be one of the hardest in the world. It was called “the knowledge.” That was also the name of a hidden hangout for cab drivers, and one that NEVER allowed non-drivers access. Well, maybe there will be an exception.
One especially interesting and unique character is Patty Haigh, one of the “child assistants” involved. The children “informers” do present some “social” incongruities. Patty is extremely well prepared for sleuthing, especially for a ten-year old child, and adept enough that that she traverses international airports, sneaks into foreign countries, talks her way into luxury hotels, and returns to live on the streets of London without some sort of social service intervention.
I was given a copy of “The Knowledge” from Martha Grimes, Atlantic Monthly Press, and NetGalley. I loved every word. I could not put it down. This book is every bit as engaging as the twenty-three before it. It was as easy to read and seemed as if It were reading about an old friend. Oh wait, I was!