ARC Review: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

dreaming spies

Dreaming Spies
Author: Laurie R. King
Release Date: Feb. 24th 2015
Genre: Mystery
Series: Mary Russell #13
Rating: B+

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

Justice Hall


Justice Hall

Author: Laurie R King

Publish Date: 2002

Series: Mary Russell #6

Genre: Mystery

Rating: B+

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 Shackled with an outdated responsibility to his family, Mahmoud has become quite the miserable drunk.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


The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Author: Laurie R. King

Publish Date: 1994

Genre: Mystery

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.

Read in October

October was a pretty good reading month for me. Below is a breakdown of what I read last month but didn’t have time or the inclination to write a full review for:


15789274 Wolverine and the X-men, Vol. 1 by Jason Aaron

 Rating: B+

Genre: Comic

Wolverine and Kitty Pride are trying to pass inspection so they can open the Jean Grey school for mutants. As expected, things don’t go well when the new Hellfire Club (teen edition!) decides to attack. I loved the dynamic of Wolverine and Kitty trying to play nice with the bigoted inspectors while also attempting to keep the school in one piece as things crash down around them. It was a great set-up for a little more light-hearted X-men series and I can’t see where things go.


17182373 Captain Marvel, Vol. 2: Down by Kelly Sue DeConnick

 Rating: A

 Genre: Comic

Captain Marvel: Down starts out with a fun plot involving Carol and Monica Rambeau investigating an unexplained ship/plane graveyard near New Orleans. This was just straight-up fun that features Carol punching sharks and flows into a story about Carol trying to find a missing friend. Really enjoying DeConnick’s Captain Marvel run. One of the best things is that Carol is allowed to have female friends who genuinely enjoy one anothers’ company. This is harder to find in comics than some would think.


13431883 Wild Justice by Kelley Armstrong

 Rating: A –

 Genre: Suspense

After 4 years of waiting, fans of Armstrong’s Nadia Stafford series finally got a conclusion to the series. In Wild Justice, Nadia finds herself face to face with the killer of her young cousin and is forced to confront her memories of the past. I love the Nadia Stafford series, so I was extremely relieved when this book got released, as I knew it would wrap-up questions from the previous books. However, some things in this novel seemed like they were on fast-forward. I got the feeling that Armstrong had originally intended to have more than 3 books in the series but then changed her mind (either due to her other stories being more popular or a loss of interest in the concept) and decided to cram everything into this one. Despite this, I still really loved Wild Justice and thought it was a strong ending for the series. But I am still holding onto the fragile hope that maybe someday Armstrong might decide to give us another book featuring Nadia.


20883304Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Rating: C

Genre: Humor

I listened to Dad is Fat on an 8 hour road trip. Gaffigan’s delivery of the book was pretty fantastic and there were moments in the book that had me chuckling to myself. However, I mostly left book thinking Gaffigan was absolutely insane. Live on the fifth floor of a two bedroom apartment in New York with 5 kids, your spouse, and no elevator? No, thank you. .


17899546Avengers: The Enemy Within by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Rating: B+

Genre: Comic

The Enemy Within is actually the conclusion to plot started in Captain Marvel: Down. If you haven’t read that one, you won’t be able to follow Enemy Within very well as it wraps-up the mystery behind Carol’s illness and the person that has been stalking her, which was not really seen in DeConnick’s Avengers run prior to this. Despite this, it was a great conclusion to that story arc and I look forward to see what comes next.


13537838Wolverine and the X-men, Vol. 2 by Jason Aaron

Rating: B –

Genre: Comic

I hate mystery pregnancy plots and even though it’s made clear that Kitty isn’t actually pregnant (not a spoiler, it’s revealed within the first couple of pages) this came way too close to that kind of story. The resulting plot centered on her and the invasion of the school was boring to me. What made up for it was Wolverine and Kid Omega going gambling in space to save the school. I hear that the next couple of installments of this series aren’t the greatest, but I’ll probably continue on with it anyway.


18007564The Martian by Andy Weir

Rating: B +

Genre: Sci-Fi

A great listen on audio. I posted a full review on a blog I share with a friend of mine, which can be found here.



12119496Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

Rating: B +

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Steel’s Edge is supposed to be the last book in Andrews’ “The Edge” series. Charlotte moved to the Edge after her illusions about her husband and life were shattered. She worked hard to build a new life for herself but it’s all destroyed one afternoon when she agrees to help an injured man. Now she’s set on taking her revenge and will use Richard Marr’s help to get it. I really loved Charlotte and thought the dynamics of her magic were interesting. However, I felt like there were a few minor plot threads that weren’t finished by the end. So, I’m hoping this means the Andrews writing team haven’t completely finished writing stories in this world.


19124363Evernight by Kristen Callihan

Rating: B

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Evernight is the 5th book in Kristen Callihan’s “Darkets London” series. I’ll admit I skipped over book 3 and 4 for no real reason except this one sounded more interesting at the time. Holly Evernight has been agoraphobic ever since she was kidnapped and held captive. And the constant stream of supernaturals bent on killing her isn’t helping alleviate that fear. Will Thorne is the first one person to make it past her security and she’s shocked to find he’s also someone she was forced to experiment on. I’m not a huge fan of “hate turns to love” romances, so the first part of this book wasn’t my cup of tea. Callihan’s writing was enough to keep me going though and I new that the ending wouldn’t play out the way I expected. It’s one of the things I love about Callihan’s books. She never quite goes down the path I expect her to take. All in all, an enjoyable read and I look forward to reading the next book in the series (Soulbound).


26759Dark Water by Koji Suzuki 

Rating: C+

Genre: Horror

Dark Water was my horror novel for October. Essentially, it’s a collection of short stories all connected through the characters’ interactions with water and death. The way Suzuki incorporated paranormal elements into these connections was very interesting and was what kept me reading. However, I was thinking this would be more of a horror book than it really was. The majority of the tales reminded me more of Karen Russell‘s short stories, which are general fiction that utilizes some paranormal elements. So, if you’re looking for a scary or creepy read, I would suggest you look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a collection of interesting stories then this is a solid read.


13330537Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King

Rating: A –

Genre: Mystery

Garment of Shadows is the 12th installment in King’s Mary Russell series. I’ve been skipping around a lot with these books but it has never affected my understanding of what is going on. In this one, Mary is suffering from amnesia while trying to navigate her way around a strange city. A large chunk of this book revolves around everyone trying to figure out how Mary got injured and where the person she was traveling with has vanished. I really adore this series and loved getting some chapters told from Holmes perspective.


18136549It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

Rating: C+

Genre: Contemporary Romance

It Happened One Wedding is the 5th book in James’ FBI/US Attorney series and I really wish she’d get away from writing only books in this series. I’m starting to get a little tired of the concept and would love to see what she would do outside of FBI/US Attorney novels. In this story, Vaughn and Sidney are the best man and maid of honor (respectively) of their siblings wedding. After a rocky start, they find themselves growing on one another. Nothing too surprising here, it basically went the way I figured it would. Not bad, but nothing very memorable about it.

The Moor


The Moor

Author: Laurie R. King

Publish Date: 1998

Genre: Mystery

Series: Mary Russel, book 4

Rating: A +

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 and this book certainly lived up to my expectations.

Mary 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.

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.

A Letter of Mary


A Letter of Mary

Author: Laurie R King

Publish Date: 1996

Genre: Mystery

Series: Mary Russel, book 3

Rating: C +

A Letter of Mary opens with Holmes and Mary enjoying a quiet day at home when archaeologist 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.

A Monstrous Regiment of Women

5f922aeb72ebd26b49fdcfd1bb6179fbA Monstrous Regiment of Women

Author: Laurie R. King

Published: 1995

Genre: Mystery

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.