Author: Laurie R. King
Series: Mary Russell, book 2
Rating: A –
Technically, this is the second Mary Russell book by Laurie R King, but it’s the one I began the series with. I chose to 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 great job of incorporating women’s history into her storylines. I was also curious to see what aspects of the 1920’s era King would incorporate into the narrative.
A Monstrous Regiment of Women begins with Mary Russell about to turn 21, an age she has been eager to reach, as it means assuming full control over her inheritance. In addition to her 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 the leader of the church, Margery Childe, preach. Mary quickly finds herself talked into returning on a regular basis in order to teach Childe another language. It’s during these lessons that Mary begins to notice some odd occurrences. Slowly, the death of several church members (written off as accidents) begins to surface followed by strange reports of Childe miraculously healing herself. All of these events lead Mary to diving deeper into the church as she starts to investigate it’s leader and followers.
Mary was pretty awesome in this book. She spends a lot of the novel working by herself on the case with Sherlock Holmes only popping in and out of the narrative. This is largely due to the fight they have near the beginning of the story, 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 and age to be so up in the air concerning the potential shift in 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 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 it sometimes lagged. Kings writing can be a little dense at time especially when she starts getting into theological discussions. Generally, things got back on track quickly though. So if you’re looking for a great mystery featuring an interesting female protagonist I would highly recommend picking this up.