Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club discussion

Garment of Shadows (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #12)
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Archived VBC Selections > Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King - VBC Feb 2015

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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
This month we're doing a re-read of Laurie's twelfth Russell book to get us all back up to speed for the new(!) Russell coming out on February 17th.

Garment of Shadows takes Russell and Holmes through Morocco and brings back two of our favorite recurring supporting players. We start out with Russell having absolutely no idea what's going on (or even who she is!).


Lenore | 1079 comments I'm only just starting my re-read, however, I went back and looked at our 2012 discussion. I recommend that everyone read that, BUT if this is your first read of GARM, I recommend that you wait until you finish the book before reading the previous discussion.

Except for one snippet of the previous discussion, which is that, as Russell recovers her memory, it will likely enhance your enjoyment if you try to identify where in the previous books the flashes of memory occurred.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Russell's amnesia and the various things resulting from it are one of the great things about this book - as is the setting. I thought this was a case (even more than usual) Laurie really brought the sights, smells and sounds of the location to life.


Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: "Laurie really brought the sights, smells and sounds of the location to life. "

No kidding! I've had my eye on a trip to Morocco since this book came out two years ago! LOL


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Merrily wrote: "Laurie really brought the sights, smells and sounds of the location to life. "

No kidding! I've had my eye on a trip to Morocco since this book came out two years ago! LOL"


Erin, you and me both!


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Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments Merrily wrote: "Russell's amnesia and the various things resulting from it are one of the great things about this book - as is the setting. I thought this was a case (even more than usual) Laurie really brought t..."

You said it perfectly, Merrily. I enjoyed having those senses engaged so much. Laurie did a masterful job of that. Here's how I stated it in my review. "Laurie King's deft description of the exotic Morocco setting calls to the reader like a snake charmer entrancing his graceful companion."


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C.P. Lesley (cplesley) | 132 comments Oh, gosh. It IS February already, isn't it? Must get up to speed! :-)


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "Merrily wrote: "Russell's amnesia and the various things resulting from it are one of the great things about this book - as is the setting. I thought this was a case (even more than usual) Laurie ..."

That was an excellent observation, Kathy!


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
I need to start the re read too, but GARM was one of my favorites, up there with GAME. I just love the exotic location adventures with Holmes and Russell. When they are out of their element, I think they shine.


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Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments Merrily wrote: "Kathy wrote: "Merrily wrote: "Russell's amnesia and the various things resulting from it are one of the great things about this book - as is the setting. I thought this was a case (even more than..."

Thanks, Merrily. I'm glad that we both appreciated that feature.


Bardbooks | 79 comments Of all the sensory triggers in this wonderful series, it's the scent of coffee beans, roasting in the cold desert air, that comes first to my mind.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "Of all the sensory triggers in this wonderful series, it's the scent of coffee beans, roasting in the cold desert air, that comes first to my mind."

Barbara, that's such an important part of Russell's memory, too - as she says in JUST. I always like that part where she and Holmes make coffee at home using Mahmoud's technique, for the comfort of the smell and taste.


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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "I need to start the re read too, but GARM was one of my favorites, up there with GAME. I just love the exotic location adventures with Holmes and Russell. When they are out of their element, I thin..."

I totally agree, Sabrina. I've been trying to put into words what it is that grabs me about the OJER and GAME and GARM compared to say LANG and GotH. We're learning about a new place and Russell and Holmes are focused on also navigated a strange environment, so the focus is on the location more than conspiracy, maybe?


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Sabrina wrote: "I need to start the re read too, but GARM was one of my favorites, up there with GAME. I just love the exotic location adventures with Holmes and Russell. When they are out of their..."
Erin, personally I think it's a combination of the fact that the exotic locations are interesting, and that the remote location means that Holmes and Russell are together and to a great extent dependent on one another. (The same thing is true in DREA.) In LANG and GOTH, they were just apart a bit more than I like, even though I realize the creative reasons for it!


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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Oh, good point, Merrily! All the adventures at home have Russell and Holmes acting independently and usually in different cities. I definitely miss their interaction in those books.


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Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments Merrily, one of the first things I mentioned in my review of Garment of Shadows was that I was so glad to have Russell and Holmes back together again. The return of the Hazr brothers pleased me, too.


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Sara | 20 comments Amnesiac-Russell commenting on her innate abilities for sleight-of-hand, pickpocketing, lock-picking, juggling, and escapism had some amusing moments. (Her bit about Holmes' name 'sounding like a story' was a nice touch, too. Ha!)
And so many mentions of honey: echoes of it all throughout the book like a subtle perfume from familiar bees in England and exotic honey-laden foods in Morocco....all layers adding warmth and spice to the overall story. Evocative sensory descriptions abound.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "Merrily, one of the first things I mentioned in my review of Garment of Shadows was that I was so glad to have Russell and Holmes back together again. The return of the Hazr brothers pleased me, too."

The Hazr brothers are great favorites of mine, too, Kathy. I think it would be great if Laurie brought back some characters in her other books, too. I'd like to know what happened to Flo, and I think Iris (in JUST) was a great character, with whom we could spend more time.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sara wrote: "Amnesiac-Russell commenting on her innate abilities for sleight-of-hand, pickpocketing, lock-picking, juggling, and escapism had some amusing moments. (Her bit about Holmes' name 'sounding like a s..."

Very true, Sara, this is one book that really appealed to one's senses. I remember the photos from Morocco that Laurie posted when the book was published - just luscious!


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Erin wrote: I totally agree, Sabrina. I've been trying to put into words what it is that grabs me about the OJER and GAME and GARM compared to say LANG and GotH. We're learning about a new place and Russell and Holmes are focused on also navigated a strange environment, so the focus is on the location more than conspiracy, maybe?

I agree with Merrily's point about them being together more, but also, it just seems like the two of them are having fun, even when it's dangerous. We get to see a different side of them both, I think. The foreign locations are usually more action packed and they are in disguise. I loved so many scenes in GARM. The shoot out on the cliff face, the lorry they stole, and Holmes climbing around back while it's moving to get a picnic... there is just so much to love.


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Laura Stratton | 240 comments I am part way thru my reread of GARM and am enjoying it more this time through. I am hoping that my overall impression will be improved this time.


Antoinette | 186 comments C.P. wrote: "Oh, gosh. It IS February already, isn't it? Must get up to speed! :-)"

I just checked out my copy from the library, and it's my first read, not a re-read so I have catching up to do as well.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Laura wrote: "I am part way thru my reread of GARM and am enjoying it more this time through. I am hoping that my overall impression will be improved this time."

Laura, I find that I often like some of the Russell books better on the second read than I did on the first (in fact, I didn't get "The Moor" at all on first reading, and now it's one of my favorites). There are all these little nuances that somehow one misses the first time around. I also listen to all the books in audio form and that is even better for getting those little moments!


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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: "Laura, I find that I often like some of the Russell books better on the second read than I did on the first"

So true! Not to say that I haven't liked reading them the first time around (because if that were the case, why would I still be reading, right?), but they definitely improve on the reread.


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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Okay, here's a question: Which part of the setting grabbed your attention more? The city? Or the desert?


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Okay, here's a question: Which part of the setting grabbed your attention more? The city? Or the desert?"

Erin, when I'm with Mahmoud and Ali, I always find the desert compelling - the way they live there so comfortably. I wouldn't want to live in that environment, myself, but they definitely belong there.


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C.P. Lesley (cplesley) | 132 comments Just to clarify, I've read GARM twice—and interviewed Laurie about it in 2013, too. I did plan to read it a third time for this group, which I may not quite manage, but I can wing the discussion if needed. ;-)

If you haven't read it, do. It's a delight. And I agree with the comment that these books bear, and even benefit, from re-reading: I loved Pirate King on the re-read, despite being a bit disappointed in it the first time around.

Can't wait for Dreaming Spies!


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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I have yet to reread Pirate King (like you, C.P., I was a little disappointed in it)...maybe I should jump on that.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "I have yet to reread Pirate King (like you, C.P., I was a little disappointed in it)...maybe I should jump on that."

I think so many people were caught off-guard by the fact that Pirate King was intended to be a farce, although Laurie had warned us - but the tone was just so different than that of the rest of the series. I did enjoy it, though, and it's fun as an audiobook, too.


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Okay, here's a question: Which part of the setting grabbed your attention more? The city? Or the desert?"

That's a tough one. The city was more vibrant because Russell was trying to remember who she was, so everything was vivid, but a lot of action happened in the desert, so I liked those parts.


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
C.P. wrote: "If you haven't read it, do. It's a delight. And I agree with the comment that these books bear, and even benefit, from re-reading: I loved Pirate King on the re-read, despite being a bit disappointed in it the first time around.

So true! This series is the only one I have ever read again, or any book, for that matter. Every single time, I notice something new, or understand a scene that I didn't quite get before.


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: I think so many people were caught off-guard by the fact that Pirate King was intended to be a farce, although Laurie had warned us - but the tone was just so different than that of the rest of the series. I did enjoy it, though, and it's fun as an audiobook, too.

I liked PIRA, too. It wasn't my favorite in the series, but it was still a step above other books and series that aren't my favorite. The scenes with Holmes and Russell were great, and the last quarter was awesome. I just didn't like the massive cast of characters, but then... I don't like Gilbert and Sullivan. Just different tastes in humor.

One of the Phyrne Fisher books was also a take on Gilbert and Sullivan, and I didn't care for that one.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "Merrily wrote: I think so many people were caught off-guard by the fact that Pirate King was intended to be a farce, although Laurie had warned us - but the tone was just so different than that of ..."

Sabrina, I like Gilbert and Sullivan but as Holmes would say, a little of them goes a long way. Did you read the last Phryne, "Murder and Mendelssohn"? It's fabulous and let us just say, there are a couple of characters in it who are clearly inspired by our favorite detective and a doctor friend of his...


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: "Sabrina wrote: "Merrily wrote: I think so many people were caught off-guard by the fact that Pirate King was intended to be a farce, although Laurie had warned us - but the tone was just so differe..."

Merrily, no I haven't read the latest Phyrne Fisher. I sort of got burnt out on them. So giving the series a rest. I got so tired of her multiple, mindless men each book. I kept wanting the banter and partnership that her and Jack have in the TV series. Which is exactly why I love Holmes and Russell when they are together.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "Merrily wrote: "Sabrina wrote: "Merrily wrote: I think so many people were caught off-guard by the fact that Pirate King was intended to be a farce, although Laurie had warned us - but the tone was..."

I guess because I read many of the books before I came to the TV series, Phyrne's taste for Beautiful Young Men didn't bother me...although I do like Jack in the series! I did especially enjoy the latest book, for the reasons I mentioned earlier...


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
I may revisit the series, Merrily. I might have just stopped on a low point in series.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "I may revisit the series, Merrily. I might have just stopped on a low point in series."

Yes, and I think sometimes if you read too many series entries too close together, they get too formulaic and you begin to notice it. I thought this one was a departure from the norm in a very interesting fashion.


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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: "Yes, and I think sometimes if you read too many series entries too close together, they get too formulaic and you begin to notice it."

So so true! This realization is always at war with my wanting to read all the things when I find a series I like.

I always find it interesting that, seemingly, a lot of what people like about some series (J.D. Robb, Janet Evanovich, etc) is the comfort of sameness/familiarity. I like the familiarity, but the formulaic sameness really gets to me after a few books.

One of the things I love about the Russell books! Familiar, beloved, characters, but never in the same situation twice!


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Erin and Merrily, I was just thinking about the subject of formulaic TV shows and book series. It is a really interesting subject.

One of my favorite TV shows (Castle) switched things up a bit, and the fan reaction was pretty negative, saying how the producers ruined the show and demanding that things be put back the way they were. I also know someone who was offered a big publishing deal, but the agent wanted her to change her series so it followed the typical formula of a mystery series: find body, solve case, etc. She turned them down.

Maybe the majority (it seems that way) love formulaic series because life is so unpredictable from day to day that they crave it? Or maybe some readers don't like to think too much when they read? IDK...I'm with you, Erin. That's one of the things I love about Holmes and Russell series too. Each book is completely different, but still familiar.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "Erin and Merrily, I was just thinking about the subject of formulaic TV shows and book series. It is a really interesting subject.

One of my favorite TV shows (Castle) switched things up a bit, an..."

Sabrina and Erin, I too prefer series in which there is some variety and where you truly feel that you are on a journey with the characters, that they are not simply ageless folks going through the same motions over and over. I get bored with anything in which you KNOW that the same cycle is going to run through one story after another. One of my pet peeves with Castle right now (although I'm still a fan of the program) is that in almost every episode the murderer turns out to be the first person they talk to, the one who seems the most innocuous. I mean watch, it happens every week. Sometimes I think they should just arrest the first person they interview and move on...


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Laura Stratton | 240 comments I agree that many books improve with a reread. For me it's like visiting a dear friend. You pick up new things but it's comfortable too. My daughter, Hannah, rereads Justice Hall at least once a year just for that reason.
Sometimes when I read a book the first time, especially from a favorite author, I read it all at once because I am so excited to find out how my old friends are doing. On the second read I pick up more details & nuances of the story.
Hannah & I and my 78 year old mother all love Castle too. We agree that it gets a bit repetitious at times. I think the issue with the new story line is not that it's new but that it's not well thought out. Beckett & Castle are independent of each other too much and the writers lost the spark that made the story line fun.
What makes Castle & Beckett so good are some of the same things that draw me to Russell & Holmes. Excellent writing, a Smart female lead character alongside an equally smart male lead and the partners are better together than separately.
I much prefer when Russell & Holmes work together than apart. For me, the story is richer and more compelling. When they are apart (Pirate King, God of the Hive etc) I feel something is missing.

Maybe Laurie can give us some insight on this topic?

BTW- I was lucky enough to win an ARC of "Dreaming Spies" and I know you will all love it. I am looking forward to the group discussion.


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: One of my pet peeves with Castle right now (although I'm still a fan of the program) is that in almost every episode the murderer turns out to be the first person they talk to, the one who seems the most innocuous. I mean watch, it happens every week.

I noticed that too, Merrily! And then I was thinking how hard that must be... I mean there are so many mystery shows out that air every single week. Coming up with a different way to kill someone every week must be exhausting. I know they have teams of writers per series, but still, I imagine that they have a giant dart board with plot/characters/motive/murder weapon, etc, and they just start throwing darts at it to see what they can fill in the blanks with.

I think it drives home the point on how important characters are for a TV or book series. For me, no matter how masterful a mystery is, it really boils down to the characters.


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Laura wrote: Beckett & Castle are independent of each other too much and the writers lost the spark that made the story line fun.

Good points, Laura. Castle and Beckett have so much chemistry together. When they are on the screen, the two spark off one another with electrifying effect. Just like Holmes and Russell in the books. But I always assumed that with this current storyline, it was just a break from the norm to evolve the characters.

Having two character apart for a time can really add some excitement too. In GARM, for example, when Russell woke up alone and lost, it was much for satisfying when she finally found Holmes, because the whole time I was going... when is Holmes going to find her?! And then he did, and everything was all right again.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "Laura wrote: Beckett & Castle are independent of each other too much and the writers lost the spark that made the story line fun.

Good points, Laura. Castle and Beckett have so much chemistry tog..."


Sabrina, so true about the importance of the characters and making them more than just puppets that one moves around a formula. As to Castle, I like the fact that they're still partners, if in a different configuration. I always thought that (contrary to the experience in some television shows) that with the right couple, the show could move beyond the "sexual tension" mode and into a real relationship between the characters, a sort of "Nick and Nora" mode. I know not all agree, but I think getting the characters together (finally) has worked both with Castle and with Bones. I think what the writers have to guard against is the sort of silly, manufactured troubles between the characters that they sometimes feel is necessary to maintain viewer suspense, and which in most cases would never happen in real life.


Diane (dideo74) | 47 comments Erin wrote: "Merrily wrote: "Yes, and I think sometimes if you read too many series entries too close together, they get too formulaic and you begin to notice it."

So so true! This realization is always at wa..."


I quit reading Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series because she doesn't grow up. It's like perpetually being in high school. I still read the J. D. Robb series because there is character growth (slowly due to the fact the series so far covers about three years). And there is a certain level of comfort in some of the sameness, rather like catching up with old friends. The growth and changes are nuanced rather than large or obvious.

I like my series characters to grow and learn from their experiences. Russell and Holmes continue to grow and intrigue me. I also love the historical aspects of the stories. I look forward to each new book with anticipation.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "Erin wrote: "Merrily wrote: "Yes, and I think sometimes if you read too many series entries too close together, they get too formulaic and you begin to notice it."

So so true! This realization is..."


Diane, well said, I agree completely. One of the things that I've always liked about Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series is that Harry is aging right along with the author (in fact he's approaching retirement). It makes the series more real. On the other hand, I also think the technique of stringing out many books across a short amount of time in the characters' lives, as Laurie does (along with Charles Todd and Kerry Greenwood) is a great technicque for allowing the characters to develop without aging out of the ability to lead their active and dangerous lives.


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Lisa Greisen | 2 comments Laura wrote: "I agree that many books improve with a reread. For me it's like visiting a dear friend. You pick up new things but it's comfortable too. My daughter, Hannah, rereads Justice Hall at least once a ye..."

I am so with you on loving the books where Holmes and Russell are mostly working together. I love those but was incredibly disappointed in Pirate King. I suppose part of it is that I am first and foremost a Holmes fan, and the books draw for me is first Holmes, and then the Holmes Russell partnership, and Russell alone is just not that interesting for me.


Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: is the sort of silly, manufactured troubles between the characters that they sometimes feel is necessary to maintain viewer suspense, and which in most cases would never happen in real life.


I agree with all your points, Merrily. Especially the above! Those are my two big pet peeves: endless sexual tension (just get on with it already) and couples in books who create their own internal drama. I mean really, there's enough drama in the outside world as it is, no need to throw pettiness into a relationship. I am always drawn to the whole Nick and Nora dynamic where two people work together on a case.


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MaryL (maryl1) | 234 comments SPOILERS AHEAD!





OK, shifting focus here: I finished GARM this AM-my second re-read-and still find the last couple of chapters dizzying-like one of those amusement park rides that switch direction so often you're left with whiplash and a fairly significant queasy sensation.

The whole political ending is puzzling, and I think we touched on it last discussion: 1. Was Mycroft REALLY the one who issued the assignation order or was it his "evil deputy"?
2. Did Mycroft actually want the Hazr brothers to aid the Revolt, all the while assuring Whitehall he had dispatched his best men to take care of it?
3. Can one draw conclusions like that when the author doesn't specify it? (I mean LRK tends to write in a broad story arc sometimes)
4. If the story is as Mahmoud states (arguable...) is Russell just naive? Is she a "Black and White, no Grey" person? Or does she just not wish to be manipulated? And whatever did she make of the Cold War if she found these sorts of politics distasteful?


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
MaryL wrote: "SPOILERS AHEAD!

Mary, I haven't re-read GARM so I'm a little foggy on this, but wasn't the evil deputy despatched before GARM begins? Leaving that aside, I think Mycroft would be quite capable of telling Whitehall one thing and doing another, because he might well think that he knew better than "the policitians" what was good for the country (which is always a danger with the intelligence services). And perhaps Laurie isn't sure what Mycroft was up to; as we know, authors are not always in complete control of their own characters!
I don't Russell is naive (although she is young, and despite her high intelligence has not yet, perhaps, plumbed the depths of what human nature is capable of), but I DO think she dislikes being manipulated. Which is unfortunate in a way, because both Holmes brothers are notorious manipulators from way back.
At the rate Laurie is moving these characters along in time, we'll be long dead before there is any danger of seeing Russell deal with the Cold War!



OK, shifting focus here: I finished GARM this AM-my second re-read-and still find the last couple of chapters dizzying-like one of those amusement park rides that switch direct..."



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