Book review: Mary Russell’s War by Laurie King

Mary Russell's War: And Other Stories of SuspenseMary Russell’s War: And Other Stories of Suspense by Laurie R. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this series. I love everything about this series. I love the fact that it’s Sherlock Holmes. I love the fact that Sherlock Holmes found an apprentice worthy of him. I love the fact that the apprentice happens to be female. I love the fact that the books are (mostly) written in her voice. Did I mention that I love this series?
This particular book is a collection of short stories that either help flesh out cryptic details from various other books or add to the depth of particular books. It does NOT work as a standalone book as you will miss much of the context if you haven’t read the other books in the series. (If a female apprentice to Sherlock Holmes appeals to you, start at the beginning with “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.”)
I am generally not a fan of short stories, especially for mysteries, because the length constraint prevents a mystery from properly unfolding. But the author is a gifted writer who can pack several clues within a single sentence. And since the short stories generally happen in between her full-length books, the short stories work.
If you are a fan of the Mary Russell series, this is a very good addition for your collection. And if you haven’t yet discovered this series, what are you waiting for? Head immediately to your nearest bookstore/library for “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice!”

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Book review: Dreaming Spies by Laurie King

Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell, #13)Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy this mystery series and its unique and interesting take on Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, the past few books have been the weakest of the lot, so I was delighted that #13 in the series proved to be such a delightful read.
The book takes place in 1920s Oxford with a flashback to 1920s Japan. I’ve been to Japan several times and am reasonably familiar with Japanese culture, and the author did an excellent job describing pre-Westernized Japan as perceived through the eyes of the British. Her descriptions were quite accurate and perceptive and made for an enjoyable read (especially when you don’t have to throw the book figuratively against the wall and yell, “That’s simply not how it works.”).
In addition, the plot was extremely clever and well done. While I accurately picked out the major villain, there were several unexpected (at least to me) plot twists. I loved coming to the end of the book and having to do a re-read to pick up on all the clues that I missed the first time. That’s my favorite kind of mystery.
As always in these books, the characters are well drawn, and Mary Russell’s narrative is full of personality and character.
If you haven’t read this series yet, run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore or library, and start reading. (It’s best to read it in order.) And if you’ve stopped reading the series, I highly recommend picking it up again. “Dreaming Spies” is a highly worthy addition!

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Book review: Garment of Shadows by Laurie King

Garment of Shadows (Mary Russell, #12)Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Mary Russell mystery series is one of my favorite series. (I know–I say that a lot.) At the beginning of this one, which starts almost immediately after the previous book, “The Pirate King,” Mary Russell is suffering from amnesia and has no idea who she is or what she’s doing in Morocco. Sherlock Holmes is anxiously searching for her, as she has missed their rendezvous. Various events occur–some believable, some less so–but in the end, a mystery is solved, a political crisis is averted, memory is restored, and a couple is reunited.
Mary Russell is one of my favorite characters (yes, I say that a lot, too). She is frighteningly competent but vulnerable at the same time. This story is mostly her story with Sherlock Holmes playing a supporting role. The book is filled with rich detail about Morocco of the early 1900s, and the complexity of the political situation is explained coherently (or as coherently as is possible). The secondary characters are filled in nicely (with some favorite repeat characters appearing), and the story is compelling.
All in all, this book is a fine addition to the series.

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Book review: Pirate King by Laurie King

Pirate King (Mary Russell, #11)Pirate King by Laurie R. King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have really loved this series, whose premise is centered on Sherlock Holmes coming out of retirement and marrying a young woman very much his intellectual equal, named Mary Russell.
Unfortunately, as of late, the series has gotten a bit inconsistent. The eleventh book of the series, “Pirate King” is an excellent example of this inconsistency.
The premise of the book is a whimsical one: Mary Russell masquerades as a director’s assistant of a film about the making of a film of “Pirates of Penzance” (the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta). There’s a question of some drug smuggling and gun running taking place during the filming of previous films, and Mary decides to help out her Scotland Yard friend, Lestrade, and investigate (and also avoid her brother-in-law, Mycroft, who is planning a visit).
The interweaving of the “Pirates of Penzance” plot with the mystery is fanciful and well done. The secondary characters are well-rounded and interesting. But the book is a little…boring. The mystery isn’t particularly compelling or convincing. And there was very little interplay between Holmes and Mary, which is the strength and charm of the series. There were a few unexpected plot twists, but, in the end, the book’s ending was a bit anti-climactic (and, to tell the truth, I stopped caring about who had done it several chapters before the book ended). In fact, the best part of the book was the inclusion of a “prequel” short story called “Beekeeping for Beginners,” which was a charming story of how Mary met Holmes, from Holmes’s perspective. That was fabulous!

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Book review: The God of the Hive by Laurie King

The God of the Hive (Mary Russell, #10)The God of the Hive by Laurie R. King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy Laurie King’s series on Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Mary Russell. Her 10th book in this series is a worthy addition (which are best read in order). The main characters are well developed by this point, but the secondary and tertiary characters are also well drawn and interesting. The plot is suspenseful and fast-paced, with a few unanticipated twists and turns (as well as a few anticipated twists). The main drawback of this book is that Mary and Holmes are split up for the bulk of the time. Their relationship is the heart of the series and one of the most enjoyable dimensions, but, fortunately, the strength of the plot compensates for the absence of commentary in their relationship. The ending is a bit ambivalent, as many of the author’s novels are, but this is a thought-provoking and worthy addition to the series.

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