The Way of All Fish by Martha Grimes
review by Helen McIver
Martha Grimes is a superb mystery writer, official Grand Master, known for a number of series (the proper British Richard Jury/Melrose Plant, the teenage amnesiac Andi Oliver who battles animal abuse, and the literary mysteries of 12 year old sleuth Emma Graham). I highly recommend her poetry and short stories/novellas.
In 2003 after Grimes was “let go” from her long time publisher Knopf, she published a wickedly funny satire on the publishing industry, Foul Matter. Now in a sequel The Way of All Fish, we meet again Candy and Karl, the two literary hit men with conscience. This time they can’t take out the target (a literary agent) because they want to protect the writer Cindy Sella. She would become the prime suspect as the agent has a nuisance suit against her. Instead, they develop a zany rather convoluted plot, with a motley crew to harass him, and succeed admirably! There are many laugh out loud moments during the literary ride from NYC, to the Florida Everglades to Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh to a Pennsylvanian monastery. There are many clever literary allusions to classical mystery writers which you will enjoy. I am still laughing a few months later over some of the Monty Pythonesque moments and their amateur literary critiques/ opinions, and thought this would be a good beach read. It is more romp than mystery but very entertaining. I would like to see Candy and Karl again in another mystery.
I just saw it on display at Barnes and Noble and know the library has her mysteries. Altho not necessary, I would recommend reading Foul Matter first (to be familiar with many of the characters who reappear).
“Oddly, given all the cordite misting the air like cheap champagne, the customers (of the Clownfish Cafe) didn’t get shot; it was the owner’s aquarium…that exploded.”
(40 fish flopped around, 1/3 clownfish and were rescued by customers to water pitchers and wine glasses in the opening sequence!)
“They holstered their weapons as efficiently as they’d drawn them, like the cops they were not……the book business is like rolling around Afghanistan on skateboards” ….
“Books had added a new dimension to their lives. Books were to die for. Literally….how would they have ever guessed that the publishing world was so shot through with acrimony that they’d just as soon kill you as publish you?”
“Lawyers to the right of her, lawyers to the left, lawyers in front, lawyers behind,” one person remarks. “Is there a vision of hell, even in Dante, that could possibly compete with that?”
If you liked Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants (humour) or Richard Condon’s hit man Prizzi, you will like this. I would also suggest the Thomas Perry mystery series featuring another hit man, beginning with The Butcher’s Boy (1982). These are not for the feint of heart, but are tremendous reads.