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The Way of All Fish

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In Grimes’s new sendup of a world she knows very well, Candy and Karl, hitmen with a difference— they have scruples—once again venture into the murky Manhattan publishing scene. This time they come to the aid of a writer who is being sued by her unscrupulous literary agent, L. Bass Hess, a man determined to get a 15 percent commission for a book he didn’t sell. The contract In Grimes’s new sendup of a world she knows very well, Candy and Karl, hitmen with a difference— they have scruples—once again venture into the murky Manhattan publishing scene. This time they come to the aid of a writer who is being sued by her unscrupulous literary agent, L. Bass Hess, a man determined to get a 15 percent commission for a book he didn’t sell. The contract killers join forces with publishing mogul Bobby Mackenzie and megabestselling writer Paul Giverney to rid the mean streets of Hess, not by shooting him, but by driving him crazy. They are helped by other characters from Foul Matter and a crew of new colorful personalities, including an out-of-work Vegas magician, an alligator wrangler, a glamorous Malaysian con lady, and Hess’s aunt in Everglades City, who has undergone a wildly successful sex change.


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In Grimes’s new sendup of a world she knows very well, Candy and Karl, hitmen with a difference— they have scruples—once again venture into the murky Manhattan publishing scene. This time they come to the aid of a writer who is being sued by her unscrupulous literary agent, L. Bass Hess, a man determined to get a 15 percent commission for a book he didn’t sell. The contract In Grimes’s new sendup of a world she knows very well, Candy and Karl, hitmen with a difference— they have scruples—once again venture into the murky Manhattan publishing scene. This time they come to the aid of a writer who is being sued by her unscrupulous literary agent, L. Bass Hess, a man determined to get a 15 percent commission for a book he didn’t sell. The contract killers join forces with publishing mogul Bobby Mackenzie and megabestselling writer Paul Giverney to rid the mean streets of Hess, not by shooting him, but by driving him crazy. They are helped by other characters from Foul Matter and a crew of new colorful personalities, including an out-of-work Vegas magician, an alligator wrangler, a glamorous Malaysian con lady, and Hess’s aunt in Everglades City, who has undergone a wildly successful sex change.

30 review for The Way of All Fish

  1. 4 out of 5

    Washington Post

    “The Way of All Fish” is completely different in tone from Grimes’s Richard Jury mysteries, and fans who haven’t read “Foul Matter” might need a few pages to catch up. Publishing also seems a less ripe target for satire than it did back in 2003. In the decade since “Foul Matter” appeared, someone seems to have taken out a hit on the entire industry. Grimes has packed in plenty to amuse readers, from her ever-spiraling plot to the motley characters to allusions to classic mysteries by Dorothy L. S “The Way of All Fish” is completely different in tone from Grimes’s Richard Jury mysteries, and fans who haven’t read “Foul Matter” might need a few pages to catch up. Publishing also seems a less ripe target for satire than it did back in 2003. In the decade since “Foul Matter” appeared, someone seems to have taken out a hit on the entire industry. Grimes has packed in plenty to amuse readers, from her ever-spiraling plot to the motley characters to allusions to classic mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers, Edgar Allan Poe and Wilkie Collins. Read our review here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/enterta...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “The Way of All Fish” by Martha Grimes, published by Scribner. Category – Mystery/Comedy Publication Date – January 07, 2014 Cindy Sella is a well known and published author who is being sued by her former agent, L. Bass Hess. She is being sued for commissions he did not receive for a book she wrote long after she released him as her agent. Cindy finds help from two hit men, Candy and Karl, who dream up schemes that will get Hess out of her life. Candy and Karl, although they are hit men, do have “The Way of All Fish” by Martha Grimes, published by Scribner. Category – Mystery/Comedy Publication Date – January 07, 2014 Cindy Sella is a well known and published author who is being sued by her former agent, L. Bass Hess. She is being sued for commissions he did not receive for a book she wrote long after she released him as her agent. Cindy finds help from two hit men, Candy and Karl, who dream up schemes that will get Hess out of her life. Candy and Karl, although they are hit men, do have scruples, they study their intended victims and only take the hit if they find them deserving. They enlist several people to help them drive Hess from Cindy’s life permanently. One caper involves a questionable monk and his questionable monastery. The plot is woven around the publishing industry and includes writers and editors. The author also adds in an ex-mobster turned author who has turned on the mob and is in the Witness Protection Program, although he hides in plain site. Fish, well the fish in the story basically hold the story together as a common Clownfish is represented as a highly endangered species and is moved from aquarium to aquarium as the story dictates. This allows for the use of the fake Fish and Wildlife agents to gain information on Hess and his lawsuit. I didn’t find the book very funny. It failed to keep me wanting to turn to the next page, and I found only a few of the characters that held my interest. If one is looking for a very low key book, outside of some strong language, this could be what you are looking for, but don’t expect much more than a run of the mill mystery/comedy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ann G. Daniels

    Imagine Carl Hiaasen, set in New York instead of Florida, with the bad guys as literary agents instead of ruthless developers, and you'll have an idea of The Way of All Fish. Martha Grimes has left behind her atmospheric British pubs sad detective hero for the Manhattan literary life and a couple of hit men with scruples and dese-dem-and-dose accents. Unfortunately, although the book is very funny in parts, it doesn't really hold together - too many people are doing too many things for too thinl Imagine Carl Hiaasen, set in New York instead of Florida, with the bad guys as literary agents instead of ruthless developers, and you'll have an idea of The Way of All Fish. Martha Grimes has left behind her atmospheric British pubs sad detective hero for the Manhattan literary life and a couple of hit men with scruples and dese-dem-and-dose accents. Unfortunately, although the book is very funny in parts, it doesn't really hold together - too many people are doing too many things for too thinly explained reasons, and too many plot details are left hanging. If the plot were better conceived, I'd beg your pardon and say they were red herrings, but they're not - they're just bits and pieces that don't really go anywhere, while the story goes in too many directions at once. All in all, a funny idea that didn't quite pan out.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    This is not for anyone with a low tolerance for whimsy. I have mixed feelings. I enjoyed it well enough as I was reading, but the plot was so Rube Goldbergian in its complexity all "to get" an unscrupulous literary agent, who as bad as he was, seemed to be treated somewhat cruelly. I am sure any author who has dealt with such an individual would relish it, but what percentage of the population is that? Also it reminded me of my least favorite parts of the author's Richard Jury novels when Melros This is not for anyone with a low tolerance for whimsy. I have mixed feelings. I enjoyed it well enough as I was reading, but the plot was so Rube Goldbergian in its complexity all "to get" an unscrupulous literary agent, who as bad as he was, seemed to be treated somewhat cruelly. I am sure any author who has dealt with such an individual would relish it, but what percentage of the population is that? Also it reminded me of my least favorite parts of the author's Richard Jury novels when Melrose Plant and his friends gather around the pub and devise labyrinthine plots to prevent Vivian form marrying or some such--all a little too cloying.

  5. 4 out of 5

    thePromoParrot

    The Way of All Fish by Martha Grimes is a story that basically revolves around the publishing industry with Cindy Sella, a published author, who is taken to court by her former agent, L. Bass Hess, on the ground of non-payment of fifteen per cent commissions for a book she wrote long after being released as her agent. He is destroying Cindy's productivity by saddling her with an expensive nuisance lawsuit. Martha populated the book with interesting characters like the two hit men, Candy and Karl, The Way of All Fish by Martha Grimes is a story that basically revolves around the publishing industry with Cindy Sella, a published author, who is taken to court by her former agent, L. Bass Hess, on the ground of non-payment of fifteen per cent commissions for a book she wrote long after being released as her agent. He is destroying Cindy's productivity by saddling her with an expensive nuisance lawsuit. Martha populated the book with interesting characters like the two hit men, Candy and Karl, who decide to help Cindy and work out a plan to rid the mean streets of Hess. They choose to confuse rather than kill Hess. Candy and Karl are a fascinating pair of hit men who study their targeted victims before the actual hit. Then there is an ex-mobster turned author who has turned on the mob and is in the Witness Protection Program. It is well-written and truly enjoyable. It will give you enough laughs all the way to the end of the book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Despite not having read the prequel, Foul Matter, I had no problem enjoying The Way of All Fish, a whirlwind caper novel. In fact, I laughed aloud. Two sentence summary: Two hit men choose to confuse rather than kill a publishing agent who is destroying an author's productivity by saddling her with an expensive nuisance lawsuit. Craziness ensues. Fish. Alligator. Pigs. Macaw. Transgender uncle / aunt. Junk yard. Stoners. Precocious child. Coffee shop. Lawyers. Literary allusions. What book doesn't Despite not having read the prequel, Foul Matter, I had no problem enjoying The Way of All Fish, a whirlwind caper novel. In fact, I laughed aloud. Two sentence summary: Two hit men choose to confuse rather than kill a publishing agent who is destroying an author's productivity by saddling her with an expensive nuisance lawsuit. Craziness ensues. Fish. Alligator. Pigs. Macaw. Transgender uncle / aunt. Junk yard. Stoners. Precocious child. Coffee shop. Lawyers. Literary allusions. What book doesn't need all of these?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    I finally crashed on through Martha Grimes' latest attempt to leave the British "Richard Jury" series behind. She left it behind, along with all of her best gifts in character, setting, perspective. In trying to join the leagues of satirists somewhere between Janet Evanovich and Tim Dorsey, she's spun off into a world of supposed humor with no great satirical purpose. I understand a writer's need to shift and grow, but Grimes has simply shrunken to nearly unreadable. The novel doesn't even merit I finally crashed on through Martha Grimes' latest attempt to leave the British "Richard Jury" series behind. She left it behind, along with all of her best gifts in character, setting, perspective. In trying to join the leagues of satirists somewhere between Janet Evanovich and Tim Dorsey, she's spun off into a world of supposed humor with no great satirical purpose. I understand a writer's need to shift and grow, but Grimes has simply shrunken to nearly unreadable. The novel doesn't even merit wading into as "light but bright" entertainment that I sometimes enjoy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Silly but fun. Like her more conventional mysteries better. Nevertheless, I plan to read the prequel, Foul Matter. At least I think it is a prequel.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    This book is... goofy! Fish called Wanda meets Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Book sequels have my name written all over them, especially ones written by a favorite author, which explains my almost childlike delight with “The Way of All Fish.” Martha Grimes continues to explore the dark underbelly of the publishing industry she exposed ten years ago in her wicked satire, “Foul Matter.” Should we be concerned that the fictitious publishing conglomerate, Mackenzie-Haack, is now owned by ghost owners in Dubai? Could the industry be demonstrating less of a moral compass? What Book sequels have my name written all over them, especially ones written by a favorite author, which explains my almost childlike delight with “The Way of All Fish.” Martha Grimes continues to explore the dark underbelly of the publishing industry she exposed ten years ago in her wicked satire, “Foul Matter.” Should we be concerned that the fictitious publishing conglomerate, Mackenzie-Haack, is now owned by ghost owners in Dubai? Could the industry be demonstrating less of a moral compass? What about the influence of technology on writing, publishing and reading? Has Main Street become Grub Street? Do these issues and others have anything to do with the relationship between readers and the books? If we espouse social justice, should we make signs and begin protesting? Don’t worry. Grimes brings a much lighter touch to this murky business. Many of her characters are bright, reflective and quite ethical, which provides another perspective to the industry and restores one’s faith in writers and editors. All of her characters have a Dickens quality about them, which just adds to the fun. Karl and Candy are the hit men with ethical standards whose bemusement with the industry drove “Foul Matter.” They uncover an unexpected connection to the conniving, litigious, highly unlikable literary agent, L. Bass Hess, whom they are studying before they decide to take on the “job.” They are so outraged about what he is doing to Cindy Sella, an earnest, soul-searching, young novelist suffering from writer’s block, they are more interested in the job but realize Cindy would be a prime suspect should Hess be killed. Their “due diligence” investigating the details reconnects them to many of the characters introduced in the first book. These creative minds and talents collaborate on an adventurous scheme to banish Hess from the New York industry scene or at least “neutralize” him. These interactions and meetings provide opportunities for Karl and Candy to continue their comparison between the publishing industry and their own line of work, with their work seen as the higher calling. Their continued reading of the publishing trade journals, TBR, best seller lists, their “action research,” supports their position and produces great dialogue among the characters. While bringing back many of the memorable characters, Grimes also introduces us to a number of others, some of whom might be easily misjudged and/or dismissed living on the fringe as they do. The “neutralizing” of L. Bass Hess takes the cast on the road from the Clownfish Café to unlikely destinations such as the Everglades, an abbey in Pennsylvania, and a séance in Pittsburgh with many plot twists and a great deal of humor. In the end, revenge is sweet, all’s well that ends well, and the like. I do hope to meet Karl and Candy again some day.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Wickedly funny and just the antidote for the winter blahs! I am only sorry Grimes has not written more books starring Karl and Candy, "two hit men with scruples." The cast of characters, and I do mean characters with a capital C, is well-developed and Grimes leaves no doubt which ones the reader should cheer on. They include a damsel in distress, dastardly literary agents and lawyers, druggies and tough broads along with contract killers and a questionable monk. The action begins when hit men bo Wickedly funny and just the antidote for the winter blahs! I am only sorry Grimes has not written more books starring Karl and Candy, "two hit men with scruples." The cast of characters, and I do mean characters with a capital C, is well-developed and Grimes leaves no doubt which ones the reader should cheer on. They include a damsel in distress, dastardly literary agents and lawyers, druggies and tough broads along with contract killers and a questionable monk. The action begins when hit men botch a job at The Clownfish Cafe in New York. Further silliness takes place in the Everglades and Pittsburgh but in the end the bad guys get their just desserts thanks to Karl and Candy and their scruples. I enjoyed this book so much I am going to reread Foul Matter which introduces these wise guys. Let the chuckling continue....and, please Ms Grimes, keep Karl and Candy's adventures coming!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    2.5 stars. I read this for a book club. It wasn't bad per say, I just kind of found it to be all over the place. The hit men were amusing, in the way that the hit men from Pulp Fiction were amusing. Other than that, I was at a loss in figuring out the point of this book. All these people want to get rid of this one guy because... he's an asshole? They're willing to spend millions of dollars to goof on a bunch of jerks? In defense of Cindy, who none of them really even knew? Also the fact that sh 2.5 stars. I read this for a book club. It wasn't bad per say, I just kind of found it to be all over the place. The hit men were amusing, in the way that the hit men from Pulp Fiction were amusing. Other than that, I was at a loss in figuring out the point of this book. All these people want to get rid of this one guy because... he's an asshole? They're willing to spend millions of dollars to goof on a bunch of jerks? In defense of Cindy, who none of them really even knew? Also the fact that she was never really involved in the plot to take the guys down kind of irritated me. She was just.. there. Clueless. I felt like the ending dragged on too. And there were too many characters to keep track of. It's possible that I didn't like it because I didn't read the first one, Foul Matter, but I'm honestly not sure if that's the case.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Lamont

    What utter and unbelievable silliness. That said, I really wish I could've given this book 2.5 stars, because I was thoroughly entertained by it. Also, I enjoyed recognizing the thinly disguised characters from the Richard Jury series. Nice cotton candy for the brain, best ingested poolside. It's just that it would do an injustice to my other 3s if I rated it thusly. What utter and unbelievable silliness. That said, I really wish I could've given this book 2.5 stars, because I was thoroughly entertained by it. Also, I enjoyed recognizing the thinly disguised characters from the Richard Jury series. Nice cotton candy for the brain, best ingested poolside. It's just that it would do an injustice to my other 3s if I rated it thusly.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hapzydeco

    Do not waste your time. (A contract hitman named Candy. Grimes’ sense of humor?) Read one from Grimes’ Richard Jury series.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Ruth Boe

    Couldn't keep my attention. Couldn't keep my attention.

  16. 5 out of 5

    LJ

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A very clever and engaging book from the virtuoso Martha Grimes. This one's a bit of an outlier for the author who typically writes thrillers and mysteries, usually of a more serious bent. The novel is pure tongue-in-cheek fun, featuring a wacky plot and dozens of humorously named characters. Cindy Sella's (who has been a big "sella" of literary novels) troubles with her previous agent, L. Bass Hess (L for "Largemouth" I think) provides the flashpoint for the plot. Bass is known to be a litigiou A very clever and engaging book from the virtuoso Martha Grimes. This one's a bit of an outlier for the author who typically writes thrillers and mysteries, usually of a more serious bent. The novel is pure tongue-in-cheek fun, featuring a wacky plot and dozens of humorously named characters. Cindy Sella's (who has been a big "sella" of literary novels) troubles with her previous agent, L. Bass Hess (L for "Largemouth" I think) provides the flashpoint for the plot. Bass is known to be a litigious ass in the publishing world. His suit against Sella is unjust and yet has caused our damsel in distress much in terms of time and money and sapped her creative strength. Enter her heroes: two hit men, Candy and Karl, Paul Giverney, a big time author, Bobby Mackenzie, head of a well-known publishing company that owns Cindy's imprint, Clive Esterhaus, a managing editor, and a host of others who join Paul in giving L. Bass Hess a very elaborate and creative heave-ho. There is so much wittiness to enjoy in this novel that sometimes a reader could almost miss it. Grimes slyly makes fun of book titles made up of puns, yet this novel's title is a pun of sorts. And there are lots of other examples I can't think of right now. I particularly liked the description of all the forsaken manuscripts off in a room somewhere which Bobby Mackenzie has collected and later uses to punish Bass, who misses out on a few gems which later become best sellers, all due to his arrogance. About the only aspect I didn't enjoy is poor old Cindy herself. She was much too passive a character for me. At one point she makes a comment that she has become her character Lulu, a character stuck forever behind the wheel with nowhere to go. How much will her reader tolerate of Lulu's inactivity, Cindy wonders. Indeed. But the book isn't mainly about her, although she starts the plot off. It's mostly about the ridiculous world of publishing as Grimes sees it, and the men who try to control it. I had great fun reading this novel, a well-crafted, well-written satire that kept me laughing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liz Pardey

    It's been years since I've read anything by Martha Grimes so I was happy to be reminded of her. And I did enjoy the book a lot. Easy, fun, likeable characters, certainly free of gratuitous violence. One caveat though -- make notes of the characters. There are at least ten fairly important people in the story. Briefly, Writer's agent L Bass Hess is up to his usual tricks, suing author Cindy Sella claiming she hasn't paid him for work he didn't do. One evening Cindy is eating in the Clownfish Cafe It's been years since I've read anything by Martha Grimes so I was happy to be reminded of her. And I did enjoy the book a lot. Easy, fun, likeable characters, certainly free of gratuitous violence. One caveat though -- make notes of the characters. There are at least ten fairly important people in the story. Briefly, Writer's agent L Bass Hess is up to his usual tricks, suing author Cindy Sella claiming she hasn't paid him for work he didn't do. One evening Cindy is eating in the Clownfish Cafe when gunmen burst in and shoot out the fishtank. She and the other diners rescue the fish. Various circumstances put her in contact with Kane and Candy, sophisticated gunmen who prefer not to shoot unless they have to. Learning of her problems with Hess, they decide to help her. We meet reputable and not so reputable lawyers, other writers, Lena Bint Musah, Bub, Monty, Molloy, Abbot Johnny des Santos, . . . . the list does rather go on and that's why you need to keep track. There is a plot of sorts that involves getting rid of L Bass Hess -- just getting him out of Manhattan, perhaps to the Everglades home of his trans aunt Simone Simon (you have to meet Simone - she's great!!!) or to become a monk in Johnny' Montagne Cassino. The lawsuit against Cindy is dropped, she acquires a miniature pig and takes it to Joe's farm (he specializes in peg pigs and knife throwing) As you might guess from the title, there are a few literary puns and references, fun and games; not very much of the detective fiction that Grimes is most associate with although I intend to read some of those soon.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nicola

    The idea sounded interesting enough in principle - hit men with a conscience and a publishing world that will quite literally kill for a piece of the action. In reality, the writing style just didn't work for me. I tried to persevere but I just ended up horribly bored (and over the endless talk about fish!). I read about a third of it and then put it aside as 'Did Not Finish'. The idea sounded interesting enough in principle - hit men with a conscience and a publishing world that will quite literally kill for a piece of the action. In reality, the writing style just didn't work for me. I tried to persevere but I just ended up horribly bored (and over the endless talk about fish!). I read about a third of it and then put it aside as 'Did Not Finish'.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Froese

    This is not a typical Martha Grimes mystery and those looking for that will be disappointed. It is a satiral, fast moving and very funny book unearthing the ruthlessness of the publishing industry. The hit men with a conscious are laugh out loud funny. The perfect quick distraction for the stress of COVID-19 times.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Mackay

    When I say finished I actually mean I gave up. I felt like I was reading something written in a strange alien language pretending to be English. It just made no sense at all. Big cultural differences maybe? Perhaps an American reader would understand it. Incomprehensible to me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Even the best of authors, like Martha Grimes, can have a misfire. I loved "Foul Matter" so I was really looking forward to this new novel about the murky world of publishing and hit men. However, I struggled to get through this. Two many characters. No solid protagonist and an untidy plot. Even the best of authors, like Martha Grimes, can have a misfire. I loved "Foul Matter" so I was really looking forward to this new novel about the murky world of publishing and hit men. However, I struggled to get through this. Two many characters. No solid protagonist and an untidy plot.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Violet

    I see I am not the only one that does not care for these really complicated plots and characters. I love the Jury books but I really tried on this one and got about two thirds read before I gave it up.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Turi

    I'd give it a 2.5 if I could. It was kind of tongue in check funny, like the first one. But dragged a bit. I'd give it a 2.5 if I could. It was kind of tongue in check funny, like the first one. But dragged a bit.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Conner

    Great story, had me laughing and enjoying the moments.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Didn't love it in the same way as the Richard Jury mysteries. The characters seemed artificial? Too stereotypical? Not sure but never developed an attachment to any of them. Didn't love it in the same way as the Richard Jury mysteries. The characters seemed artificial? Too stereotypical? Not sure but never developed an attachment to any of them.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    I could not finish this book, a rarity for me. Too disjointed, implausible and lacking a central focus. Very disappointing.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katharine Klevinskas

    Grimes had great fun with language writing this & I had a good time reading it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Conchetta

    Fun, complicated sting.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lawanda

    Richard Jury, where are you when we need you?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Sequel to Foul Matter. Totally different than her normal genre - two contract killers who decide if their targets deserve to be killed and help an author being sued by a former agent.

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