Monday, September 12, 2011

A Letter of Mary

Book Review

A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King.

This is the third book in a series that extends the Sherlock Holmes story and character. I originally stumbled upon the ninth or tenth book in the series, and I even started reading it. But I didn't like coming in the middle of the series.

Besides, I liked what I was reading and I might like the early books in the series too. Time to back up and start at the beginning. Which I did.

Just to catch you up, the series starts with Sherlock Holmes retired from private investigations and raising bees. A teenage neighbor girl, Mary Russell, shows promise in observations and analytical thinking and they become friends. As Mary grows up, she spends time with Sherlock and becomes is apprentice. She attends Oxford and becomes his partner. They come to respect each other and each has a fondness for other. After they each witness the other's life in peril in separate circumstances, they realize their attachment for each other. They subsequently "negotiate a marriage," despite the large difference in their ages.

Don't be mistaken. Of the three books that I have read of this series, none of them qualify as romances. They are all mysteries incorporating an interesting, extending twist on an old, favorite sleuth.

"A Letter of Mary" picks up after a couple of years of marriage. A friend dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances. This quickly evolves into a murder mystery. Sherlock is in fine form, finding overlooked details of the murder, as one would expect. But Mary does her fair share of sleuthing, including using disguises, assuming a role to gain additional information, and potentially an admission of guilt. Most of the story focuses on Mary, with Sherlock taking a supporting and secondary, but critical, position.

The writing is pleasing and easy to read. The language occasionally includes an antiquated word, but always these are perfectly in keeping with the scene, setting, and time. These books do not move quickly, but rather saunter through their plots. This book has more dimension, and there are more possible suspects than the previous books, and these are definitely welcome additions. There is more intrigue and my curiosity was peaked throughout. Of the first three books, this is my favorite.

I will be adding the next book to my reading list. I'm enjoying these. They are true to Sherlock in the details, but with a woman of sharp mind participating fully, the tone is considerably different. Mary is smart, observant, and as talented as Sherlock. She just lacks the decades of experience that Sherlock has. She'll outwit him soon, if he's not careful....

If you like the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, you might give these a try. The first and second book are less of mystery stories and more for filling in the gap between where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left off and where Laurie King wants to go with them, but they adequately set the stage for this third book. I think these are going to continue to become better and better mysteries as the series progresses.

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