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It’s a shame this book hasn’t gotten any interest from either Grimes’ mystery fans or readers of poetry because it’s an enjoyable read. It isn’t quite light verse but it also isn’t making claims at poetic high art either. Grimes’ rhymes are deft, rarely clunky. Her skill as a writer, regardless of form is clear in every poem.
There are various levels of humor in this book and one occurs in the plain naming of the sections: The Beginning, The Middle, The End. And within The Middle are a series of poems whose titles begin with the word Murder and end with a poetic or literary form, such as Murderacrostic and Murdersonnet.
Grimes plays with form in other parts of the book as well. The combination of a narrative thread throughout the book and the use of forms make this a great book for introducing the various poetic forms to high school students, perhaps even to lower level college students. The narrative will hold their interest, and the book begs discussion of how the different forms affect the subject matter, as well as the discussion of how a mystery in poetry is different from a mystery in novel form.
On Martha Grimes’ website, Send Bygraves is described as “her most fascinating book” which “explore[s] the very nature of crime . . . .” I confess I missed the more weighty aspects of the book. But it is clever and humorous and a thoroughly entertaining read. It’s a quirky selection for a library’s poetry section, but I have to give kudos to whoever chose it for Albertville. Keep it on the shelves and attempt to let patrons know it’s there. It’s accessible, narrative, and deals with intrigues of small town life. It’s British small town life, but it’s surprisingly transferable to the small town American South, which often has an obvious class structure, seething underground resentments hidden behind manners, and potentially spooky landscapes.