For some reason, I thought the book that revealed Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes to be married would have a bit more fanfare surrounding the event, but it is stated as a matter of fact. (Those of you who think I just fell headlong into the spoiler pit, think again. The marriage is mentioned in the very first line of the synopsis.) Although there is no celebration, readers do see the two trying to become accustomed to being a pair, such as when Holmes says
"I am not criticising, Russell. There is nothing wrong with the way you gather information-- far from it, in fact. It is only that I still find it difficult to accustom myself to being half of a creature with two brains and four eyes. A superior creature to a single detective, no doubt, but it takes some getting used to."
A Letter of Mary is filled with witty repartee, and an entire section is given over to Mary's undercover work as a private secretary to two possible suspects: a wealthy man and his lecherous son. (The scene in which Mary takes care of the son is well worth the price of admission.) In addition to the two suspects, readers see this formidable pair of detectives working with the son of Inspector Lestrade, Mycroft Holmes, and one of the Baker Street Irregulars, among others, making this third book in the series have the best cast of secondary characters so far.
With a manuscript of such incendiary potential, I was hoping for some fireworks by book's end, but they didn't really materialize. What does materialize is the continuing "humanization" of Sherlock Holmes. Laurie R. King does a superb job of "appropriating" the world's greatest detective that we all know and love and showing that he is capable, not only of great love and affection, but of a relationship with a very strong and intelligent woman who is every bit his match. Conan Doyle allowed us a glimpse of Holmes' heart in his stories, and in King's series, we see it beating strongly. Is it any wonder that I'm hooked?
Sherlock Holmes has retired to Sussex Downs with his wife, Mary Russell. Just before total boredom sets in, Mary's friend, Dorothy Ruskin, a noted amateur archeologist working in the Middle East, pays a visit. Her subsequent "accidental" death embroils both of the Holmes in a religious mystery.
A wonderful pastiche and feminist mystery. A good read!
I am continually surprised by my discovery of new, at least to me, authors who abducted Sherlock Holmes into new adventures. Some of these stories are light and short, others are humorous and some are deeply intellectual. I believe Arthur Conan Doyle would respect, if not actually like, the latter.
Laurie King has 13 such novels in a series that begins with "The Beekeeper's Apprentice." This series might outrage some devoted Holmes and Watson fans, as Watson is replaced by a young girl. The now-retired Holmes meets 16-year-old Mary Russell on the moor and is intrigued by her. Russell reminds Holmes of himself at a younger age and he is delighted to find that she has many of his deductive skills. However, Russell, like Holmes, has some baggage. She is the sole survivor of a car accident that killed her family, and has the physical and mental scars to prove it. Plus, she has a detested aunt who, appointed her guardian, covets the wealth Russell inherited. This first book spans a number of years during which Russell matures as a detective and also enters Oxford to read for her degree. The plot thickens as it becomes apparent that someone is out to kill both of them.
I just finished "A Letter of Mary," which is the third book in the series. Doyle's fans might be further annoyed that Russell and Homes are now married. They did so after the second book, "A Monstrous Regiment of Women." Holmes is now in his 60s, while Russell is in her early 20s and still studying at Oxford, as she makes time between murder mysteries. And both are masters of disguises.
Laurie King has threads running though her novels that tie the series together. For example, in "A Letter of Mary" Holmes and Russell investigate the death of a woman they met in Palestine during the first book, when they were forced to flee England for their lives. While in Palestine they also did some work for Mycroft, Holmes's brother, who still conducts mysterious business in support of the British Empire. Mycroft pops up in the first three books, and I suspect others. The Baker Street Irregulars, now grown up and with their own families, make their appearance in the books, still doing errands for Holmes, and now Russell too.
There is a very decided feminist thread in the books, as England has emerged from its Victorian Era and women are striving for a greater role in a society much changed after World War I. This especially becomes apparent in the second book and is a strong plot device in the third. In fact, resistance to this new role of women may form the motive for a murder in the third.
Those who like to consecutively read all the novels in a series, might want to reconsider that practice for this series. I found the Holmes and Russell novels to be much more intellectual than many mysteries, and reading even two back-to-back might tire the brain cells. I found I enjoyed them more when I read several lighter mysteries or other genres in between.
If finding Holmes married to a much younger woman, whom he acknowledges as his equal, is unpalatable to you, then just read the first one, "The Beekeepers Apprentice."
Russell is still very much Holmes' protege in the first book, and both of them have to deal with an unfinished chapter from Doyle's adventures that threatens them. And that is all I can tell without spoiling it for you.
Top notch Sherlock Holmsiana! And a great mystery, too.
From back cover:
Late in the summer of 1923, Mary Russell Holmes and her husband, the illustrious Sherlock Holmes, are ensconced in their home on the Sussex Downs, giving themselves over to their studies: Russell to her theology, and Holmes to his malodorous chemical experiments. Interrupting the idyllic scene, amateur archaeologist Miss Dorothy Ruskin visits with a startling puzzle. Working in the Holy Land, she has unearthed a tattered roll of papyrus with a message from Mary Magdalene. Miss Ruskin wants Russell to safeguard the letter.
But when Miss Ruskin is killed in a traffic accident, Russell and Holmes find themselves on the trail of a fiendishly clever murderer. Clearly there was more to Miss Ruskin than met the eye. But why was she murdered? Was it her involvement in the volatile politics of the Holy Land? Was it her championing of women's rights? Or was it the scroll--a deeply troubling letter that could prove to be a Biblical bombshell? In either case, Russell and Holmes soon find that solving her murder may be murder itself.
A delightful new pursuit by the Russell-Holmes duo!
Prior to her untimely death by foul play, the last action of a beloved old friend of Mary's is to place an ancient treasure in her charge. It's no less a prize than a papyrus letter in the hand of Mary Magdalene, where she is identified as a full-fledged Apostle of Jesus. Was this a prize which the killers too had sought?
Fierce in their grief for the friend who's been stolen from them, Russell and Holmes divide their forces as they go deep undercover, carefully assuming imaginative new personae in somewhat dicey environs.
Perhaps this brutal death was the work of a violent misogynist Christian, driven mad with his rage at the idea of a woman Apostle. Even now, he seems to have turned his eye upon Russell as his next prey. Yet what of the psychotic yet clever and twisty elder sister of the murder victim, in whom the death arouses neither alarm nor grief? But Mycroft, Holmes' brother who sits spiderlike at the center of the networks of political power, warns also that the departed woman was in the midst of playing a complicated political game with the competing ethnic groups beginning the modern struggle for the Holy Land.
Only minimally able to watch one anothers' backs, Russell and Holmes press grimly forward as they struggle to unravel the dark personalities (and potential murder motives) of their respective quarries...
Sherlock Holmes and his scholarly companion Mary Russell are caught up in an exciting mystery when an archaeologist leaves them with a treasured find, a papyrus supposedly written by Mary Magdalene. When the archaeoligist winds up dead and someone attempts to make off with the artifact, Holmes and Russel become embroiled in a rollicking story filled with political intrigue and highbrow sleuthing.(Amazon)
Working in the Holy Land, an archaeologist discovers a tattered roll of papyrus with a message from Mary Magdalene. She takes it to Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Mary Russell Holmes to investigate. The archaeologist is killed in a traffic accident and the Holmeses find themselves on the trail of a clever killer. Great book!
Mary Russell Holmes and her husband Sherlock become immersed in a deadly conspiracy surrounding a recently unearthed scroll written by Mary Magdelene. Not the best in the series, but well-written and fast-paced.
The characters are so much fun and the interplay between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes is so realistic for a husband and wife duo that I found myself laughing at times. I gave this one three stars because the author gave away too many details much too soon for my taste. However, this is a fun read threaded with Greek words and symbols (brought statistics courses back to mind). The premise that a letter written by Mary Magdalene had surfaced after all these years seems almost impossible but since I know little about how it might survive in airless conditions in a closed container I accept the author's premise albeit with doubt. The character of the eccentric amateur archaeologist is interesting and colorful. She added so much to the plot and the story. Entertaining read!
Another good entry in the series as Mary deals with both a family's jealousy and the behavior of men threatened by the possible existence of a female Disciple. Mary's increasing autonomy as she goes undercover once again and Holmes' support were part of what I enjoyed about this book.
I am enjoying this series of books very much, I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan and look forward to reading the rest of the series. A Letter of Mary brings up historical and theological perspectives which I found very interesting.
Late in the summer of 1923, Mary Russell Holmes and her husband, the illustrious Sherlock Holmes, are ensconced in their home on the Sussex Downs, giving themselves over to their studies: Russell to her theology, and Holmes to his malodorous chemical experiments. Interrupting the idyllic scene, amateur archaeologist Miss Dorothy Ruskin visits with a startling puzzle. But when Miss Ruskin is killed in a traffic accident, Russell and Holmes find themselves on the trail of a fiendishly clever murderer. Clearly there was more to Miss Ruskin than met the eye. But why was she murdered? Russell and Holmes soon find that solving her murder may be murder itself.
Part of the wonderful Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell series.
Absolutely enjoyed this one!
Another good story by Laurie King
I really enjoyed this. I just ordered the first one of this site and got it already!
Laurie King's well-written Sherlock Holmes pastiche--Mary and Holmes go to the Holy Land.
The 3rd book in the Mary Russel Mystery series. Mary Russel Holmes and her famous husband Sherlock Holmes try to find out who killed Miss Ruskin , a friend of Mary's, after she left a letter with mary for safe keeping.