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Grimes was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to William Dermit Grimes, Pittsburgh's city solicitor, and June Dunnington, who owned the Mountain Lake Hotel in Western Maryland, where Martha and her brother spent much of their childhood. Grimes earned her B.A. and M.A. at the University of Maryland. She has taught at the University of Iowa, Frostburg State University, and Montgomery College.
Her page-turning tales fall into the mystery genre referred to as the "literary mystery", with the emphasis on well-written character-driven stories and less on violence.
Grimes initially became known for her series of novels featuring Richard Jury, an inspector with Scotland Yard, and his friend Melrose Plant, a British aristocrat who has given up his titles. Each of the Jury mysteries is named after a pub.
Her Emma Graham quartet of novels beginning with Hotel Paradise is set in an atmospheric aging lake resort in western Maryland, and delves into mysteries of past secrets and human nature. The background to the series draws on the experiences she enjoyed spending summers at her mother's hotel in Mountain Lake Park, Maryland. One of the characters, Mr. Britten, is drawn on Britten Leo Martin, Sr., who then ran Martin's Store, which he owned with his father and brother. Martin's Store is accessible by a short walkway from the Mountain Lake Hotel, the site of the former Hotel, which was torn down in 1967.
The Andi Oliver set of two novels centers on a young drifter with amnesia, making her way in the northern U.S. midwest armed with a strong sense of right and wrong, and a great compassion. Grimes has donated a large portion of her profits from these novels to animal-protection organizations.
Martha Grimes lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
- The Man With a Load of Mischief (Boston: Little, Brown, 1981)
- The Old Fox Deceiv'd (Boston: Little, Brown, 1982)
- The Anodyne Necklace (Boston: Little, Brown, 1983)
- The Dirty Duck (Boston: Little, Brown, 1984)
- Jerusalem Inn (Boston: Little, Brown, 1984)
- Help the Poor Struggler (Boston: Little, Brown, 1985)
- The Deer Leap (Boston: Little, Brown, 1985)
- I Am the Only Running Footman (Boston: Little, Brown, 1986)
- The Five Bells and Bladebone (Boston: Little, Brown, 1987)
- The Old Silent (Boston: Little, Brown, 1989)
- The Old Contemptibles (Boston: Little, Brown, 1991)
- The Horse You Came In On (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993)
- Rainbow's End (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995)
- The Case Has Altered (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997)
- The Stargazey (New York: Holt, 1998)
- The Lamorna Wink (New York: Viking, 1999)
- The Blue Last (New York: Viking, 2001)
- The Grave Maurice (New York: Viking Penguin, 2002)
- The Winds of Change (New York: Viking Penguin, 2004)
- The Old Wine Shades (New York: Viking Penguin, 2006)
- Dust (New York: Viking Penguin, 2007)
- The Black Cat (New York: Viking Penguin, 2010)
- Vertigo 42 (New York: Scribner, 2014)
- The Knowledge (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2018)
The Man With a Load of Mischief, Help the Poor Struggler and The Deer Leap were filmed on behalf of the German and Austrian broadcasters ZDF and ORF under the title Der Tote im Pub (The Dead Man in the Pub) (2013), Mord im Nebel (Murder in the Fog) (2015) and Inspektor Jury spielt Katz und Maus (Inspector Jury plays Cat-and-Mouse) (2017). Fritz Karl as Jury, Götz Schubert as Plant and Katharina Thalbach as "Lady" Agatha Ardry.
Andi Oliver series
- Biting the Moon (New York: Holt, 1999)
- Dakota (New York: Viking Adult, 2008)
featuring Maud Chadwick (who is also a character in the Emma Graham Series)
- The End of the Pier (Ballantine Books, 1993)
Emma Graham series
- Hotel Paradise (Knopf, 1996)
- Cold Flat Junction (2000)
- Belle Ruin (2005)
- Fadeaway Girl (2011)
Novels, Short Stories & Poetry
- Send Bygraves (Putnam, 1990)
- The Train Now Departing (New York: Viking, 2001)
- Foul Matter (New York: Viking Penguin, 2003)
- The Way of All Fish (Simon and Schuster, 2014)
- Double Double: A Memoir of Alcoholism with Ken Grimes (Scribner, 2016)
- Sarah D. Fogle, editor, Martha Grimes Walks Into a Pub: Essays on a Writer with a Load of Mischief (N.p.:McFarland, December 16, 2010).
Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2006.