The second book in the Mary Russell series (or memoirs, as we are presented them) finds Mary all grown up, finished with Oxford, and about to be emancipated from her hated relative. But what direction will Mary's life as a free and independent woman take? This is the question she faces in A Monstrous Regiment of Women.
I read this book many months ago, but never wrote a review for it--probably in the self-delusional belief that I would read the entire series in a timely enough manner to recall all ten books and write a review of all of them at once. Clearly, this is not going to happen; so from now on I'm just going to review every book individually. Mmkay?
I did enjoy this novel and thought it was an improvement over The Beekeeper's Apprentice--it's much less episodic and the plot is more focused. That being said, the mystery was pretty lame. I honestly don't even remember what it was about, other than it involves some extreme religious society run by a charismatic woman who thinks God is actually female. This is 1921, so you can imagine how far-out most people would think she is, and that includes Mary. Since Mary's newly minted degree is in theology, she regards Margery Childe--the religious leader in question--with something similar to the fascination of a train wreck. In any case, the mystery here feels incidental.
However, the interaction between Holmes and Russell makes this book completely worth it, especially as Holmes is pushing Russell to consider their partnership in a new light. The direction of his thoughts isn't particularly surprising (especially if someone's already spoiled it for you, coughRuthcough), but the way it's handled and Mary's reaction is. Plus I loved the ending.
I wouldn't say Monstrous Regiment is a delight from start to finish, but it does have moments of pure storytelling genius that give me great hope for the rest of the series. Highly recommended!
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