Author: Laurie R. King
Release Date: Feb. 24th 2015
Series: Mary Russell #13
Dreaming Spies is the 13th Mary Russell book by Laurie R. King. It’s a frame narrative, where the beginning and end of the novel act as a bookends to a flashback story.
Mary Russell returns home one evening to find Sato, an old friend from Japan, bleeding in her kitchen. As Sato describes the circumstances that brought her to England, Mary discovers that the blackmail case she worked on with Holmes in Japan may not be entirely closed. Now, they must work to unravel what happened in Japan before a public figure is forced to comply with the extortioner’s demands. Continue reading
Author: Laurie R King
Publish Date: 2002
Series: Mary Russell #6
Justice Hall is book six in the Mary Russell series and the timeline gets kinda screwy around this point. Book five, O Jerusalem, backtracks to where the series started with the plot taking place in the middle of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I had assumed that I would be safe skipping book 5 since Justice Hall takes place almost immediately after The Moor (book 4), but it turns out I was 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. Owing Ali and Mahmoud their loyalty for the help they offered all those years ago, Holmes and Mary set out 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 change 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 Shackled with an outdated responsibility to his family, Mahmoud has become quite the miserable drunk.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 how Mahmoud can return to Jerusalem with Ali.
The story here had an 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.
Even though I was a little lost in parts of this novel because I hadn’t read the previous book, I still really enjoyed Justice Hall. However, if you’re reading this series or thinking about starting it, I would recommend reading O Jerusalem before diving into this one.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
Author: Laurie R. King
Publish Date: 1994
Series: Mary Russel, Book 1
Rating: A +
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is the first book in Laurie R. 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 this way as the book read like a prequel for me. This was primarily because the first half of the novel is a little episodic, focusing 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 a 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 of these romps, 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 talking to the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Impressed by Mary’s aptitude in deducting not only who he is, but also 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 because she really comes into her own and makes 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 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 a fantastic read, but I’m up in the air on whether or not I would recommend reading The Beekeeper’s Apprentice later in the series or in chronological order. Most of these books can stand on their own, so either way works.
A Monstrous Regiment of Women
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.