Friday, July 2, 2010

A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King

a letter of mary cover

In the chronicles of Mary Russell, book three, Russell and Holmes have settled into married life.  If the cottage (or the car or the train or the great outdoors...) is a-rockin', don't come a-knockin'!  Ha ha, I kid.  Or do I?????

ANYway, Holmes is bored, which means everyone in the house is walking on eggshells.  But then, lo, Dorothy Ruskin, whose name always reminds me of John Ruskin, arrives to give Russell and Holmes some much-needed excitement.  Dorothy is an amateur archaeologist whom the couple met on their trip through Palestine in The Beekeeper's Apprentice, and she wants to give Mary a letter that she believes is from Mary Magdalene.  Then she is murdered and, naturally, Holmes and Russell decide to investigate.

Again, this book was better than the previous ones--much more focused plot, and a very quick read without many lags in the story.  The writing is also very intelligent--which is appropriate, considering our heroine is smart enough to keep up with Sherlock Holmes--and full of literary and cultural allusions, most of which went completely over my head.  I don't think you need to have a degree from Oxford to enjoy the book, though, or catch at least some of the references.

That being said, there were two main things that continue to bother me about the novel.  Thing one is, what the heck happened to Colonel Edwards' wife and the woman who was killed after taking her to the hospital?  That had foul play written all over it, but the Holmes' totally let it go after the death of their friend was solved.  And speaking of Edwards and his loathsome son, this leads me to thing two:  what was the point of Mary going off and investigating them at all?  Seriously, I want to know.  Because this is the kind of book where everything is a red herring, and because of the way the mystery was solved, I can only conclude that the novel itself isn't a mystery.  So what is it, then?  What are we supposed to infer from the misadventures of Mary?

Despite the fact that the ending of the book left me with a kind of w-t-f feeling, I found myself impressed all over again by this series and in love with characters.  They kind of remind me of something Elizabeth Peters might write if she was inclined toward Sherlock Holmes instead of Ancient Egypt, and I'm looking forward to digging my way through the rest of the Russell and Holmes books memoirs.

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