If P.G. Wodehouse decided to take a shot at writing a fairytale, I think this book is what would've resulted. It's light-hearted and full of quirky ch...moreIf P.G. Wodehouse decided to take a shot at writing a fairytale, I think this book is what would've resulted. It's light-hearted and full of quirky characters that keep things moving at a whirlwind pace. I borrowed this from the library but I have plans to buy a copy for myself.(less)
King's time-line gets kinda screwy around this point in the series. Book five, O Jerusalem, backtracks to where the series started with the plot takin...moreKing's time-line gets kinda screwy around this point in the series. Book five, O Jerusalem, backtracks to where the series started with the plot taking place in the middle of The Beekeeper's Apprentice. At the time I didn't feel like doing a flashback with the characters, so I skipped to this book since it takes place almost immediately after The Moor. I had assumed that I would be safe skipping that book but I was kinda wrong.
During The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Mary and Holmes went on a trip to Jerusalem on some business for Holmes' brother Mycroft. During this trip they made friends with two brothers, Ali and Mahmoud, one of which turns up bleeding on their doorstep. The injured Ali, has come to ask for Holmes and Mary's help in convincing his brother to return to Jerusalem with him. Owing Ali and Mahmoud their loyalty for the help they offered all those years ago, Holmes and Mary set on a journey that both of them view as rather pointless. However, when they arrive at the sprawling mansion that Mahmoud has taken up residence in they are disturbed by the immense changes in their friend. Shackled with an outdated responsibility to his family, Mahmoud has become quite the miserable drunk. Wanting to help, Mary and Holmes attempt to figure out a way to make it so Mahmoud can return to Jerusalem with Ali.
The story here had a really interesting tone. This is the first novel in the series where King gives us a glimpse of the roaring 20's the way I typically imagine it, with extravagant parties and a cast of eclectic characters. It was pretty amusing to see serious Mary navigate her way through the fast-paced party atmosphere that this investigation foisted on her. Her horror/amusement at the parties and people found in them, paired with Holmes dodging out of going to the shindigs with her, was a definite highlight. It also offered a nice contrast to the more depressing aspects of the mystery that involved a World War I execution.
Seriously though, I was a little lost in parts of this novel because I hadn't read O Jerusalem. Which took me by surprise since most of King's novels seem to stand well on their own. However, King does give some back-story concerning Holmes and Mary's history with the two brothers, but it wasn't enough to explain why they both have such unswerving loyalty to Mahmoud and Ali. All this, of course, is my own fault for skipping the previous book. So I would definitely recommend reading O Jerusalem before diving into this one. (less)
Mary Russell is reluctantly dragged away from her studies after receiving a telegram from Holmes requesting her presence in Dartmoor. Holmes had been...moreMary Russell is reluctantly dragged away from her studies after receiving a telegram from Holmes requesting her presence in Dartmoor. Holmes had been in Dartmoor visiting an old friend, but got drawn into an investigation after a local is killed. The case in question involves a ghostly carriage made of bones and a spectral hound haunting the Moor. Rather begrudgingly, Mary helps to scout for clues in the foggy, cold, and damp Moor. What both her and Holmes find are a handful of supernatural sightings that draw suspicious parallels between this case and one of Holmes' most famous investigations, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Like a lot of Sherlock Holmes fans, The Hound of the Baskervilles holds a special place in my heart. So revisiting the setting of that mystery with Mary and Holmes had my geeky heart all a titter.
The pacing here was a lot faster than in some of the other Mary Russell books, which was a relief after slogging through the slow moving A Letter of Mary. My only complaint is pretty mild, Mary was going through a bit of a mid-life crisis that involved a hesitance to fully join Holmes in the case until near the end. So she sort of emotionally checked out during the first half of the investigation. While she was still physically involved, there was a lot of background noise involving her reluctance to be there at all. King did a good job of attributing this to a psychological backlash due to the events of the previous three books but, with such an awesome mystery going on, I got frustrated that Mary wasn't getting into it. However, Holmes more than made up for Mary's standoffish attitude. He was, luckily, more present here than he had been in the previous books and seemed really in his element. It was great seeing Holmes get to dash about and really get into the mystery, which is something we hadn't fully gotten to see in the first three novels.
Most of the action takes place in a huge echoing mansion and the chilly moor, which seems so far removed from the London/Sussex settings of the previous novels that it was a refreshing change. I also really adored the moor atmosphere because I'm a huge fan of Gothic mysteries. The moor offered a great eerie and isolated feeling typically found in that genre and it really upped the suspense.
This is, by far, my favorite out of the series so far. I highly recommend it.(less)
A Letter of Mary opens with Holmes and Mary enjoying a quiet day at home when archeologist Dorothy Ruskin, an old friend, suddenly appears at their do...moreA Letter of Mary opens with Holmes and Mary enjoying a quiet day at home when archeologist Dorothy Ruskin, an old friend, suddenly appears at their door. In England for a short time on business, Dorothy has stopped by primarily to give Mary an ancient manuscript that, if proven real, would cause a serious biblical ruckus. A few days later, Mary and Holmes receive word that Dorothy has died in a hit and run accident. Suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her death, Mary and Holmes set out on an investigation that leads them to believe Dorothy's death was per-meditated murder. Soon the investigation leads to them going separate ways while they work undercover inspecting their two main suspects.
This installment was good, but definitely my least favorite out of the Mary Russell series so far. I find the stories that focus primarily on religion bore me. Since a major portion of this one's plot revolved around an item with possible biblical roots, I ended up extremely bored at times. It also doesn't help that Mary tends to nerd-out on religious theory.
Also, I wasn't into the undercover bit of this plot. Mary's work while incognito just seemed really... useless. I didn't understand her fear of becoming too much like the person she was pretending to be. Mostly because the woman Mary was impersonating was so opposite to who she actually is, that I didn't believe she would have a real fear of keeping herself separate. In addition, I couldn't comprehend her attraction to the man she was investigating. It's made clear that the person she was pretending to be would be attracted to him, but seriously? The guy was a misogynist douche and Mary noted being put-off by a lot of what he said and did, so I just didn't get her turmoil. However, the resolution of Mary coming to terms with what she felt while undercover was nicely done.
The other issue I had with this book came from feeling a little cheated at how much of the main mystery happened off page. I understand what King was trying to do by having it play out this way, but I didn't derive the same thrill from the "who did it" revelation at the end.
From this review, it sounds like I didn't like A Letter of Mary at all, but I did enjoy it. There's something comforting about King's writing and her characters are always entertaining. I just didn't click very well with the main plot of this book. All in all, it was a good addition to the series, but not one that I'll be revisiting anytime soon.(less)
Technically, this is the second Mary Russell book, but its the one I began the series with. I started with this book because the mystery involving a c...moreTechnically, this is the second Mary Russell book, but its the one I began the series with. I started with this book because the mystery involving a church run entirely by women really interested me. Plus, I had been told that King does a good job of subtly incorporating women's history into her story-lines. This really intrigued me as I was curious to see what aspects of the 1920's era King would incorporate into the narrative.
The novel begins with Mary about to turn 21, an age she has eagerly been waiting to reach as it means assuming full control over her inheritance and no longer having to rely on the whims of her aunt. In addition to her near birthday, Mary is also close to receiving her degree in theology from Oxford. So when a friend from the university joins a church run exclusively by women Mary is fascinated. Agreeing to attend one of the sermons, Mary acts as a skeptical observer watching Margery Childe, the leader of the church, speak to and interact with her congregation. Wrangled into a private interview with the woman, Mary quickly finds herself talked into returning to the church on a regular basis in order to teach Margery another language. During these lessons, Mary begins to notice some odd occurrences involving the church and Margery. Slowly the deaths of several church members, written off as accidents, begin to surface, along with strange reports of Margery miraculously healing herself from extensive injuries. All of which leads to Mary investigating the church and its leader.
Mary was pretty kick-ass in this one. She spends a lot of the book working by herself on the case with Holmes only popping in and out of the narrative until close to the end. This is largely due to the fight they have near the beginning of the novel, but also because both Mary and Holmes are at an odd moment in their relationship and neither seem to know what to do about it. I loved Mary's internal struggle around Holmes. It really fit her character to be so up in the air concerning the potential shift in the dynamics of their relationship. Holmes own realization that Mary is seeing him differently is pretty on-key as well. Aside from all this, Mary also goes through a pretty traumatizing experience that really allows the strength of her character to shine. I was pretty impressed with how King used that experience to incorporate one of Holmes demons into the narrative without making it feel contrived or forced.
My only problem with the book came from how, at times, it lagged. Mostly, this came when the theological discussions would get a little too dense for me, but things generally picked back up pretty quick. Really, this was just an awesome read. Highly recommended.(less)
This is the first book in King's Mary Russell series, but I actually didn't pick it up until after I read the three novels that follow it. Honestly, I...moreThis is the first book in King's Mary Russell series, but I actually didn't pick it up until after I read the three novels that follow it. Honestly, I think I preferred it that way as this kind of read like a prequel for me. This was primarily because the first half of the novel is a little episodic, focusing mostly on Holmes and Mary getting to know each other.
After her parents and younger brother died in a car wreck, sixteen year old Mary Russell is sent to live with her aunt in England. Unfortunately, the aunt is an evil tyrant who only keeps her niece around because of the allowance she receives for taking care of Mary. In order to escape the toxic atmosphere of the house, Mary typically roams around the countryside dressed in her father's old clothes and reads. On one such romp, Mary stumbles across a man closely watching a small cluster of bees. After a brief conversation, where they both manage to insult each other, Mary figures out that she's in conversation with the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Impressed by Mary's aptitude in deducting not only who he is, but also exactly why he was watching a group of bees, Holmes convinces Mary to let him teach her his trade. Over the years, Holmes and Mary become close friends with a low level spark of attraction between them. But, being the magnet for danger he is, Holmes is soon targeted by an old enemy and Mary finds herself entangled in the whole affair.
I really adored this book. The beginning is compiled of small adventures that Mary has while learning from Holmes. It was fun watching Mary, during these parts, really come into her own and make the effort to differentiate herself from Holmes' larger-than-life personality. One of my favorites moments was her subtle flaunting of the fact that she's pursuing a degree in theology, much to Holmes' annoyance. However, the book didn't really pick-up and gain focus until the second part when the main mystery plot is introduced.
Part two begins when the people close to Holmes become the targets of an assassin, leading him and Mary to begin a long search to find the person behind the attacks. There's a lot of attraction that hums between Holmes and Mary in this section of the book, which I really loved. You can feel Holmes constantly trying to resist exposing his feelings about Mary while, at the same time, battling the attraction due to their age difference. This was just a really fantastic read, but I'm up in the air on whether or not I would recommend reading this later in the series or in chronological order. Most of the books in the series can stand on their own, so its really up to you on what order you read this series.(less)