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Send Bygraves by Martha Grimes

Send Bygraves (original 1989; edition 1989)

by Martha Grimes

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1412197,739 (2.88)3
A spoof in verse of mystery fiction features a different style of poetry for every chapter.
Title:Send Bygraves
Authors:Martha Grimes
Info:New York : Putnam, c1989.
Collections:Your library

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Send Bygraves by Martha Grimes (1989)


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Send Bygraves is a deceptively short poem, easy to read yet harder to deconstruct. Bygraves, the shadowy detective who exists within the parameters of every character's psyche is the immediate "go to" when there is a murder. Almost codependent upon Bygraves, are the well meaning survivors who treat him as a source of comfort. With the cry of "send Bygraves" resounding throughout the book, the reader must dig a little deeper to realize that the grand detective could potentially be the killer, the victim, the pawn.

Yet Bygraves always has the last laugh. His obscure presence has him appearing and disappearing at a moments notice. He is called at a scene of a murder, only for us to realize that he has already come and gone. If a character has something to hide, then there is a sense of looming dread at the thought of Bygraves unearthing every detail. Beware sinister thoughts or a guilty secrets, for there may be a killer in place of the detective that comes in the darkness.

View the full review here: http://bookendchronicles.blogspot.com/ ( )
  gigifrost | Feb 1, 2013 |
There's poetry that aims as art and poetry that is simply entertainment. Send Bygraves by Martha Grimes, a mystery author, falls between the two, leaning more toward entertainment. I would never have heard of this book, let alone picked it up and read it, if I hadn't been systematically going through the American poetry section (811) of my local library. To judge a book, I would usually read a few poems randomly. Very few books pull me into taking the time for a full read but this one did and I was thoroughly charmed. I was delighted when I found it at another library's book sale so that it now sits on my bookshelf to be shared with others or reread whenever I'm in the mood for a bit of humor mixed with mystery and psychology.

The title character, Bygraves, is a detective that no one has ever gotten a good look at but is none-the-less ubiquitious.

From the first poems "At the Manor House (1)"

And his turning up was not mere accident
In family snaps of hatchet-faced old hats,
All looking ghastly grey and prison-bent;
Nor there in tiers of black-robed graduates
Does he seem out of place, funereally
Indistinguishable from the rest.
He joined our summer outings by the sea
The unidentified and unknown guest;
Wedding days, church socials, birthdays--he
attended all, unasked.

Under the pressure of being observed by someone who remains a phantom (the detective sometimes conflated with the murdered one) everyone becomes paranoid because nearly everyone is guilty of something and if they're not, then they suspect the shadowy detective is an assassin. The book introduces us to a town's cast of characters and significant places with names like Madrigal, Whipsnade, Snively, Dredcrumble Moor, and Cobweb Tearooms. Along the way, Grimes pokes fun at various mystery conventions and stock characters and plays with poetic forms. The book's middle section starts with several poems titled "Murderacrostic," "Murderconcrete," Murderanaphora,"Murdersonnet," "Murderpantoum." And near the end, there's a "Bygraves Sestina." Just the idea of a "Murdersonnet" tickles me. Most of these she pulls off wonderfully, the clunkiest being the pantoum (though its last line makes a very clever turn via altered punctuation). One of my favorite poems in the book is "Murderacrostic" that ends:

The spectre follows kings and fools;
The spectre comes to all in time.
The spectre! How you dread to see
The spectre here, and in dark pools
The spectre mirrored endlessly.

This book never becomes any one thing. I wouldn't classify it as light verse, though many aspects of it are humorous. And it isn't strictly narrative, though the second poem assigns Bygraves to solve a crime and near the end we have more than one ending scenario. It's partly a meditation on guilt, our uneasy relationship to mysteries of all kinds, and petty animosities between people.

I've read Send Bygraves twice now and was charmed both times. It's a quick, delightful read even for people like myself who have never taken to mystery fiction and who normally read poetry that leans more strongly on the art end of the scale. ( )
  jppoetryreader | Jun 21, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Martha Grimesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Grebu, DevisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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rororo (13206)
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To Katherine Harris Grimes

wherever you are,
send Bygraves
First words
He was there again today. End of lane.
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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