I'm a big fan of the Mary Russell/Holmes series. Sherlock Holmes + orphaned half-American Jewish teenager = a brilliant marriage of minds. The partner...moreI'm a big fan of the Mary Russell/Holmes series. Sherlock Holmes + orphaned half-American Jewish teenager = a brilliant marriage of minds. The partnership begins with the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or, On the Segregation of the Queen. (And they do actually get married--at the end of the second book, A Monstrous Regiment of Women. This horrified me at seventeen. I get a kick out of it now.) Right, yes, I know, it sounds awful. But Laurie R. King somehow masterfully avoids both fanfic and cliché in creating an entirely fresh world with complex characters that takes its intersection with the Doyle canon seriously, yet has the integrity to stand on its own. I also enjoy Laurie R. King's own religious studies bent. How King artfully interweaves religious mystery and intrigue into her detective thrillers reminds me of the way author Mary Doria Russell (whoa! weird congruence of names!) writes in The Sparrow, a science fiction tale about a disastrous Jesuit mission to a newly discovered alien world.
Locked Rooms, the sixth book in the series, isn't my favorite. I don't think there was enough resolution in what Russell finally discovers about her family's fatal auto accident--I have a specific quibble, but I won't post a spoiler. I also didn't have half the fun reading about Mary having a mental breakdown that I usually do reading from Russell's perspective (probably because she's a fictional heroine I strongly relate to and I'd much rather read about her being brilliant than falling apart). However, I have to admit--it made perfect sense in Russell's character development over six books, and it allowed for a beautiful study of the contorting power of guilt. I also liked having an opportunity, for the first time, to read the narrative from Holmes' perspective. I guess that's not so surprising--we've all wanted to get into Sherlock's head at some point, haven't we, ladies? (Okay, fine. It's just me and my equally-obsessed former suitemate.)
Thanks to my suitemate Brittany for fetching me a copy from Davis Library in the thick of finals. It was the perfect way to relax between writing about AIDS and spending way too much time reading about the She-Camel of Salih during the week-and-a-half I lived on a couch in the hall.
"I was merely going to say that I hope you realise that guilt is a poor foundation for a life, without other motivations beside it."
- The Beekeeper's Apprentice
Many of my friends know that I'm enamored of what has been called "'Mary Sue Sherlock Holmes fan-fic." (I bite my thumb at thee: you know who you are!) I've been listening to this one on audio cassette, courtesy of a cassette tape purge at the public library. It was only a dollar and I got it on a trip downtown to the main library with Jenny.
"I had met Sherlock Holmes at a time when adolescence and the devastating circumstances of my orphaning had left me with an exterior...moreA favorite quote:
"I had met Sherlock Holmes at a time when adolescence and the devastating circumstances of my orphaning had left me with an exterior toughness and an interior that was malleable to the personality of anyone willing to listen to me and take me seriously. Had Holmes been a cat burglar or forger, no doubt I should have come into adulthood learning to walk parapets at night or concocting arcane inks."
More Mary Russell. I like the first book best, but this one isn't bad at all. It's very good. And I enjoy the acrobatics.
Book three begins to drag, somewhat. Obviously written before the Da Vinci Code craze--I can't see many authors trying to pull off a mystery centered...moreBook three begins to drag, somewhat. Obviously written before the Da Vinci Code craze--I can't see many authors trying to pull off a mystery centered around a lost scripture featuring Mary Magdalene as apostle after all that. It's old hat now. I also think it's here that, on re-reading, I first began to sense that Russell's theology studies at Oxford are terribly broad and ambiguous, and never seem to tinge her take on the world except in the most abstract sense--that is, of course, until an unavoidably "religious" case is thrust upon her. And even then she lacks a certain--instinct? Naturalness? It's up for grabs whether or not this is deliberate on the part of the author (who did, in book two, go to pains to purposely demonstrate in Russell's confrontations with Margery Childe that one of Russell's faults is to be stiffly mechanical in her dealings with faith), or a reflection of how Laurie R. King herself wants Mary to have the exotic flair of a theologian-sleuth, but falters, for whatever reason, in trying to form it as an organic part of Russell's character.
Quite enjoyable for Holmes enthusiasts; and a tidy little sleuthing story for mystery-loving audiences, though perhaps less entertaining for such (Mey...moreQuite enjoyable for Holmes enthusiasts; and a tidy little sleuthing story for mystery-loving audiences, though perhaps less entertaining for such (Meyer's nods and winks to the canon being lost on the average reader).(less)
I read this for the first time around 7th or 8th grade, and remember enjoying it even if I didn't appreciate it quite as much at the...more(Re-read 7/29/08)
I read this for the first time around 7th or 8th grade, and remember enjoying it even if I didn't appreciate it quite as much at the time. I think Meyer does a brilliant job in expanding on the canonical Holmes in a way that is not only plausible in context but psychologically intriguing, as well as a great deal of fun. I will say that the train chase verges on overmuch (it would do well in a movie but, in print, was almost too much to take in). But as for Freud--I will merely grin and say, well, why not?
Having re-read this makes me realize that Laurie R. King likely nods in passing to Meyer throughout the Mary Russell series. Especially in A Monstrous Regiment of Women.
(As an aside: Nicholas Meyer wrote the screenplay for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He also, if I remember correctly, had at least a part in writing Star Trek VI.)
A charming and enjoyable book, especially for the Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, but also for anyone who loves mysteries. Author Stephen Kendrick does a...moreA charming and enjoyable book, especially for the Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, but also for anyone who loves mysteries. Author Stephen Kendrick does a fine job exploring how the thrill of the murder mystery and its component parts is not unlike what motivates us on the spiritual quest for meaning. I'm not on board with every conclusion, but I appreciate the case made. I especially enjoyed how Kendrick quotes from many different mystery writers and pieces of classic religious literature, ranging from P.D. James and Graham Greene to selections from the Talmud and Buddhist scriptures. (less)
(See my review for book 3, A Letter of Mary....the thoughts below pick up where it leaves off)
...Along the same lines, one thing that surprises me in...more(See my review for book 3, A Letter of Mary....the thoughts below pick up where it leaves off)
...Along the same lines, one thing that surprises me in this book is that Russell complains that the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould's treatment of theology is haphazard--yet doesn't seem to realize that he's not merely evaluating theology, he's doing it. (Which means that as a scholar herself she needs to be evaluating what he's doing on its own terms.) Again--deliberate on King's part, or a flaw in her ability to portray this particular character?
(On a similar note, because the pet peeve fits well here: Russell at one point complains that Sunday is the day that the Christians "mistakenly call the Sabbath." However...it is the Christian Sabbath. And there are a number of distinctly Christian reasons why it is so. Therefore, for Christians to call it their Sabbath is not a mistake. Russell could get away with this remark if she were merely Jewish, but she's a scholar of theology who appears to focus a great deal on Christian history and interpretation at Oxford. Was she simply being irritable, or surprisingly unthoughtful?)
Yes, I nitpick because I love this series and read it over and over. Even the books I like less, I still enjoy. So I can complain if I like.
But here's a neat little ironic historical tie-in and one of the reasons I love and enjoy Laurie R. King's work so much. (I like layers. Complex ones.) Why write Sherlock Holmes into the life of the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould? According to the Wikipedia entry on Sabine Baring Gould, one of Baring-Gould's grandsons, William Stuart Baring Gould, was "a noted Sherlock Holmes scholar who wrote a fictional biography of the great detective—in which, to make up for the lack of information about Holmes's early life, he based his account on the childhood of Sabine Baring-Gould." Laurie R. King, in turn, cheekily writes a fictional biography of S. Baring-Gould in which the great detective not only appears, but is supplied with a childhood--at least in part--in the revelation that the Reverend Baring-Gould is Sherlock Holmes' godfather. And thus the line between fiction and reality doubles over and blurs still more...
As Russell observes in her preface to The Beekeeper's Apprentice, "I do not remember when I first realised that the flesh-and-blood Sherlock Holmes I knew so well was to the rest of the world merely a figment of an out-of-work medical doctor's powerful imagination. What I do remember is how the realisation took my breath away, and how for several days my own self-awareness became slightly detached, tenuous, as if I too were in the process of transmuting into fiction, by contagion with Holmes."