Marilyn Stasio, NY Times

The little guys always have their day in Martha Grimes’s witty mysteries featuring Detective Superintendent Richard Jury. In THE KNOWLEDGE (Atlantic Monthly, $26), honors go to the London cabbies who have an encyclopedic grasp of the city’s highways and byways, called (of course) “the knowledge.” They also have exclusive use of a pub with the same name (“unlocatable: untraceable, unfindable, unmappable”). Robbie Parsons is one of the “knowledge boys,” but he might not live to make the best use of his skills. When we first meet him, his latest fare has just shot two people to death at the door of an exclusive gambling club, then jumped into Robbie’s cab and demanded to be taken to Waterloo Station.

Whatever Robbie was expecting at the end of this tense trip, it wasn’t a big tip and a compliment on his driving. But that’s the way it is with Grimes: Great characters who say and do the most unexpected things are her stock in trade. The charmer here is 10-year-old Patty Haigh (“looks like a little girl, but acts like MI6”), one of a group of loosely parented children who hang around the stations at Waterloo and Heathrow, practicing the skills needed to be cops. Patty even talks her way into a first-class seat on a plane to Nairobi by attaching herself to the murderer she’s pursuing. “For someone who shoots people,” she acknowledges, “he was pretty nice.”

Meanwhile, Grimes’s irresistibly attractive Scotland Yard man is busy solving the murder of his newly acquired friends David Moffit, an American astronomer, and his wife, Rebecca. With enthusiastic assistance from his wealthy friend Melrose Plant and Plant’s fellow drinkers at the Jack and Hammer pub, Jury manages to have multiple sets of eyes on his suspect. But our eyes are glued to Patty, off in Africa and having the time of her life.

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