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Holmes - books

A Letter of Mary - Laurie R. King

I seem to be in a bit of a reading slump at the moment. It's not that I don't want to read but having been rather busy for a couple of weeks it's meant that the books I have been reading have taken me ages to get through. And, although I'm not the fastest reader in the entire world, I do find it hard to maintain interest if all I can read is a few pages a day and one book takes ten days to read.

Anyway, regardless of that, I did actually enjoy A Letter of Mary, which is book three in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books by Laurie. R King. Hard really to overstate how much I like this series, it's intelligent, witty and character driven and I love that.

The year is 1923 and life in the Holmes household is quiet. Mary continues with her theology based academic research and Holmes with his chemistry experiments. When Mary suddenly receives a letter from Dorothy Ruskin, an acquaintance from The Holy Land from their time there several years back (during the first book), she is intrigued enough to invite the archaeologist to the house. Dorothy arrives and presents Mary with a beautiful inlaid box which she wishes her to keep. Inside is a papyrus scroll the content of which indicates that it was written by Mary Magdalene to her sister. A bombshell in more ways than one.

A day later, Holmes and Mary hear that Dorothy has been killed in a road accident. They travel to London to verify the facts of her death and quickly discover it was not an accident at all - she was murdered. But who can have wanted the archaeologist dead? It seems Dorothy has been moving in strange circles and a group of zionists, the misogynistic Colonel Edwards, and even her rather odd family are all implicated. Mary and Holmes naturally set about investigating. Mary Russell-Holmes becomes 'Mary Small', a personal secretary, and goes to work for the unpredictable Colonel Edwards, while Holmes, in deep disguise, becomes an odd-job man for Dorothy's sister. Their investigations lead them into some surprising situations and shocking conclusions.

Another excellent installment in this brilliant series. The plot is pacey with a strong undercurrent of menace so that you're never entirely sure what will happen next. The character of Mary Russell-Holmes is one of my favourites in literature now. She's intelligent, bookish, a risk-taker - even though frequently scared out of her wits while taking these risks. She's every bit the equal of Sherlock Holmes and he treats her as such even though he also is occasionally scared out of his wits when she is risking her life for some cause or other. Some find their marriage a bit unbelievable and, yes, there is a huge age-gap. Personally, that doesn't worry me one bit, in fact it's an added attraction as I like unusual romantic couples. I do think too that Laurie King handles the whole thing very tactfully, the sign of a good writer, imo.

It's so nice to still have five more books to read in this series, the next being The Moor which is a tie-in with The Hound of the Baskervilles, I believe. Can't wait.


Words cannot express how much I love this book - it may be time to read it again. ;) I'll be very interested in hearing what you think of The Moor.
Yes, I'm sure it's time for you to read this one again. ;-p Seriously though, how nice to have a heroine who is smart and bookish and who isn't made to take second place to a man. Love it. I'll be getting to The Moor later in the month hopefully.
I am a huge fan of this series as well. I've read all of the books so far and really enjoyed every one of them.
Did you like O Jerusalem as much as the others?
I've heard that a lot of people don't like this one as much, but I did enjoy it quite a bit - possibly because I have done a fair amount of reading about both the place and the period, and so the background politics were of considerable interest for me.

True, it's not all that much like a "Holmes" mystery, but then, it seems to me that King is trying to explore a number of different styles and structures, both of the mystery novel ,and to some extent, the adventure/suspense novel. There are a number of ways in which both The Game and Locked Rooms also depart from the basic Holmesian mystery atory, and, IMO, quite successfully.
I think I will read it. I like the way she diverges from the run-of-the-mill detective story in these books. And who knows? I may actually learn something.
It certainly (and to the best of my knowledge accurately) provides some perspective on British involvement in Palestine at the time. Not the only perspective by any means, but then, all historical events can be, and I think should be, viewed from multiple perspectives.