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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on July 19, 2010
Other reviewers have already touched on some of the serious flaws in this latest in the series of Richard Jury novels. First among the absurdities are the chapters - yes, more than one - where the dialogue is among dogs and cats and which do nothing to advance the story at all. Second, the plot base is stolen from a Hitchcock movie based on a Patricia Highsmith novel. Raymond Chandler wrote the first draft of the sceenplay even though he thought the plot was wildly improbable - he was right.

Third the novel is rife with pointless vignettes and subplots inserted simply to keep certain characters "active" and ready to turn on in future works. There are other plot premises such as an aunt failing even to recognise her dead niece which stretch credibility beyond reasonable limits.

If you want to be able to namedrop famous and expensive shoe designers, or read scant references to other Hitchcock films which permeate this work, then good on you and tally ho. If however, you are looking for the tightly woven intricate material so characteristic of Martha Grimes' earlier work in this series, then, like me, you might be quite disappointed.

Another reviewer alludes to the death of Ms. Grimes cat; still another to a decline in her writing quality. It remains to be seen, but I too will wait for a library version of her next novel as this one isn't worth the price of admission, even on discounted theatre Tuesdays.
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on May 1, 2010
I found this book disappointing. Had the feeling Grimes is tiring. The chapters done from the perspective of a dog and cat were neither interesting nor clever. They also made progress of the plot dubious. And the involvement of the baddie from the two previous Jury books was pointless except to keep the character going. I certainly won't buy the next one in hardbound and may not bother with the eventual paperback.
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I'm late to Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series; this is the first one I've read. I love British crime novels, and this one is a rather nice combination of police procedural and "cozy". Jury, a superintendent with the London Metropolitan police, is called in to help out with a murder committed in a small village outside London. A woman's body is found with no identification, murdered in the parking lot of a local pub called, "The Black Cat". But the pub is not the only "black cat" in the story. Three others pop up during the story, as well as a couple of dogs. Grimes writes some of the story in the animals' voices, which I liked but other reviewers seem not to.

Three women, all beautiful "escorts" and favoring really, really expensive shoes, turn up dead in the story. Jury eventually figures out the murderer but not without help from old friends, and one "enemy", Harry Johnson. Evidently, Johnson has figured in to previous Jury stories, as have the old friends. With any on-going series, jumping-in in the middle is slightly daunting to the new reader, but Grimes has a good way of identifying who's who.

It's a good read and I'll look for other, earlier Jury novels.
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on June 30, 2010
In his 22nd appearance of this wonderful series, New Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury is trying to deal with the awful consequences of the auto accident in which the other driver was killed and which left his lover, "the incomparable, commanding, relentless" D.I. Lu Aguilar, hospitalized with devastating injuries as the book opens. [Actually, the accident took place a few weeks prior in time, at the end of the last book in the series, "Dust."] But he has little time to grieve over her fragile condition as he has been called in to assist in the investigation of the murder of a young woman, whose appearance is most notable for her beauty and the obvious costliness of her attire: Yves St. Laurent gown and Jimmy Choo shoes. The murder took place in the village of Chesham, on the grounds of a pub, the eponymous Black Cat. And in fact a plethora of black cats populate the novel. [Well, if three can be called a plethora.] For that matter, the book is filled with various animals bearing whimsical names: a horse named Aggrieved, a goat named Aghast, and a dog named Aggro, among others, and all those black cats.

Jury, who pines for a cigarette frequently through these pages as he has "for the thousandth heartbreaking time in three years," and is described as a "high-ranking detective with the Metropolitan police, but without much feeling for rank, and who'd climbed the ladder without much feeling for the rungs," remains thoroughly endearing, as do his mates, among them the debonair Melrose Plant, Lord Ardrey, if you please; Harry Johnson, nominally his nemesis but with whom he shares a decidedly ambivalent relationship; and Dr. Phyllis Nancy, his good friend-cum-paramour. In addition to all the running characters in the series, the author creates tiny little portraits of incidental characters, bringing them to perfect life. A familiarity with the earlier books in the series will be helpful to the reader, as there are several references to prior events, but is not at all necessary to a thorough enjoyment of the novel.

Other murders occur, but in London, nowhere near Chesham, and the feeling persists that the murders are both connected and not connected. It takes the persistence and brainpower of both the human and non-human characters to figure out just what that means, taking the reader swiftly to the unexpected ending. The book is, at the very least, a tutorial in designer footwear, filled with delightful humor and charming prose, and is recommended.
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"Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God." -- Proverbs 2:3-5 (NKJV)

Catnapping (I'll leave it to you to figure out which meaning applies) plays an unusually large role in this story that copiously hearkens back to The Old Wine Shades and Dust. With each new story, Ms. Grimes seems more and more determined to leave the Long Piddleton group further and further behind. While some will welcome that change, others will regret it. Melrose Plant plays a conspicuous role in the Black Cat only for humor's sake . . . which is actually pretty well done.

If you haven't read any other books in the series, I can assure you that this book will be quite confusing. You probably won't rate it even as high as three stars. If you are determined to read The Black Cat, at least go back and read The Old Wine Shades and Dust first.

I found it a little hard to take the story seriously. It's almost a satire on a Richard Jury novel. The murder victim seems vaguely familiar to several people, but no one places the well-dressed victim as a local. Come on! How likely is that?

If that weren't enough, the cat and dog dialogue is pretty hot and heavy in this one. And there's also one of the least satisfying encounters with Harry Johnson of the books in which he appears.

The mystery itself is pretty decent if you can get past the almost gratuitous side trips into the earlier stories. But be sure that you have an interest in women's shoes. Otherwise, you'll think you are watching E! rather than reading a murder mystery with the taciturn Richard Jury.

Ms. Grimes, I'm sorry that your cat, Blackie, died. You are kind to carry on Blackie's memory in this way.
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on June 15, 2011
This was the first Richard Jury novel that I've read and sadly, if the others are anything like this one, it will be my last.

Jury is an occasionally entertaining character however the plot was lacking. I would describe the book as 350 initial pages of futile banter (often between a cat and a dog) with a frustratingly simple side of 'designer shoes for dummies' then the last few pages is an 'aha' moment that finally puts and end to the withering plot.

Not a brilliant mystery plot, nor is it entertaining enough to be a pool-side guilty pleasure.
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on September 18, 2013
Martha Grimes is a master of setting a scene and writes colourful descriptions which make a reader feel they are part of the setting. Her way with words is so original - makes me think twice before using over-used cliches. Most of all, her characters are quirky individuals, for the most part, that make me dread finishing the book and leaving them all for a little while till I purchase my next Grimes mystery. I am a captivated fan of the Richard Jury Mystery series and The Black Cat is one of the best.
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on April 27, 2015
Grimes's formula is getting a bit tattered. It's just a light escapist read with some caricatured characters whose author is almost visibly trying to find more and more outlandish escapades for them.
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on April 14, 2013
I love Martha Grimes and I think I have read all the Richard Jury Novels. This is one of the best. Highly enjoyable
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on September 29, 2015
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