“Although there were no murders and – alas! – no Sheriff DeGheyn, Hotel Paradise is otherwise the story of my 12-year-old life.”
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where her father was the City Solicitor), Martha Grimes spent every summer at her mother’s hotel in Western Maryland. Her favorite memories of that time are her mother’s cooking and her brother’s theatrical productions in the big garage behind the hotel to which she was rarely admitted.
A long-time Anglophile, it was her first poem in Send Bygraves that inspired her to turn from poetry to mystery novels. Martha sent the novel “over the transom” (sans agent) to several publishers. In 1979 an editor at Little, Brown, Inc. found the book in the “slush pile” (where unsolicited manuscripts are dumped for editorial assistants to read) and offered to publish The Man with a Load of Mischief with a first printing of 3,000 copies. The Man with a Load of Mischief was published in 1981, and from there Martha Grimes has published a book (sometimes two) every year for the past 25 years.
By her fourth and fifth books Martha received major review attention that not only lauded her ability as an American to write authentic British mysteries, but also to merge the conceits of the British form with the tone and atmosphere of the American. “Help the Poor Struggler is rather an American novel, with brooding and cynical overtones of Raymond Chandler” (Time magazine, 7/15/85). In 1987 The Five Bells & Bladebone was her “breakthrough” book, landing on the New York Times bestseller list.
Her next two books, The Old Silent and The Old Contemptibles, were also New York Times bestsellers in both hardcover and paperback. Of The Old Contemptibles, The New York Times Book Review said: “The author keeps us enthralled with the rich interior and exterior lives of her characters in this emotionally stormy family saga.”
In 1992, with the publication of The End of the Pier, Martha departed from her beloved cast of characters in the Richard Jury series to write a contemporary novel based in Western Maryland that combined a serial killer murder mystery with a poignant story of the problems in a mother and son relationship. The book established her as a writer of merit outside of mystery fiction — “The End of the Pier is two books in one: a juicy mystery novel and an exploration of human behavior that few readers will forget” (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/7/92).
The second book in the series — Hotel Paradise — was published four years later and was praised by the critics as “A place not unlike the novel itself: outside of time, almost unbelievable, utterly engaging” (Washington Post, 5/26/97) and “Meandering and atmospheric, the novel reads with the ease of daydream … the author proves herself a writer of delicate sensibility whose work is notable for its delightfully quirky details, insightful perceptions into human relationships and graceful prose (Los Angeles Times, 5/26/96). ).
Cold Flat Junction (2001) and Belle Ruin (2005) continues the adventures of twelve-year-old detective, Emma Graham. “A tour de force-cobwebby mystery,” according to Kirkus, “Cold Flat Junction melds classic mystery with a coming-of-age story in which the young protagonist must face the hard and often shocking realities of adulthood as she uncovers good and evil in their many guises and tries to set the past at rest” (Baltimore Sun, 1/28/01).
In 1993, with the release of The Horse You Came in On, Martha brought Richard Jury and Melrose Plant to America for the first time to the pub of that name in Baltimore, Maryland. It was such a success and fan reaction was so positive (the Mayor of Baltimore gave her the key to the city and declared August 12, 1993 as “Martha Grimes Day”) she brought Richard Jury over again in Rainbow’s End to investigate a mystery that leads him to Sante Fe, New Mexico.
In 1997, Martha returned Richard Jury and Melrose Plant to England in The Case Has Altered. The New York Times Book Review applauded the book’s “enchanting additions tot he Grimes gallery of eccentric characters,” and it was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
The Stargazey, the fifteenth Richard Jury novel, published on November 5, 1998, become an instant bestseller and USA Today praised, “Like good British Tweed, Martha Grimes’ wintry new mystery envelops the reader in all the comforts of a serviceable English whodunit.”
The publication of Biting the Moon on April 15, 1999, marked a departure for Grimes, the first book a new series of books focusing on the prevention of animal abuse and featuring two teenage heroines. She donated two-thirds of her royalties to animal abuse organizations across the country, and said, “I do not believe that people are indifferent to the welfare of animals, possibly, the exact opposite is true – people are so affected by stories, pictures, accounts of animal abuse that they simply do not want to know.”
With the publication of The Blue Last in September, 2001, Ms. Grimes found herself back on the New York Times Bestseller list for the first time in a decade. She received more fan mail than for any other book by distraught fans worried about the “death” of Richard Jury. Her following four Jury mysteries, The Grave Maurice (2003), The Winds of Change (2004), The Old Wine Shades (2006) , Dust (2007) and The Black Cat (2010) were also New York Times best sellers.
In 2003, Grimes rocked the publishing world with her send up of the publishing world in her hilarious Foul Matter, which poked fun at editors, agents, and writers alike.
Martha Grimes has one son, a public relations executive in Washington, DC, her daughter-in-law, and two grandsons.