Saturday, April 27, 2013

Locked Rooms

Book Review

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King.

My reading time and interest has been quite limited of late. Travels, distractions, focus elsewhere have kept me away.

Then there seemed to be an opening in my available time and I grabbed at it. Time to get some reading done.

With all the options out there, I was drawn back towards Laurie R. King. I like her writing.

Even though I have been away from this series for some months now, coming back to it feels like slipping on a old, familiar glove. It is nice to get back to it.

But this story is structured different than the others and delves into characters in ways I've not seen in the previous books in the series.

All in a good way. Different is good sometimes. Especially when it still feels familiar.

Locked Rooms

This is the eighth book in the Mary Russell series and the events follow chronologically immediately after the previous book, The Game. Russell and Sherlock have just left India and are on their way back to Britian, via Russell's native San Francisco. Her former home holds both business for her and secrets from her.

This is a different type of Russell story. This one focuses on Russell's past and her present memories of that past. Normal Russell stories don't involve so much of the characters' personal history, but this seemed to evolve naturally enough from the journey home to Britain.

Russell must deal with the family holdings and in doing so, her repressed memories of her childhood begin to resurface. Tragedy forced those memories into the deepest recesses of her mind, but now she is faced with confronting them.

Despite the personal nature of our characters memories and activities, we are still presented with a genuine mystery. And not just a run-of-the-mill mystery. This one gets Dashiell Hammett written into it.

I'm not sure how I feel about having all these fictional characters interact with and get to know and work with actual historical figures. Aside from the implausibility of multiple interactions with multiple historical figures, it seems to be pushing the stories just a bit too far. Can we get back to just some plain, ol' good-natured fiction?

All that aside, the book is good and kept me reading. I liked it. I liked it enough to want to continue on with the series.

I really enjoyed the discussion and description of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and its aftermath. The descriptions were good and had me curious enough to go research some pictures. The damage is astonishing. The before and after images are striking. The pictures taken during the tragedy are haunting.

It was quite astonishing to me to have lived for so many years so close to San Francisco and not know very much about the devastation from this tragedy. Quite remarkable. The city is beautiful now and to the naive visitor, doesn't show any signs of what happened. Maybe some day I'll take a walking tour of the city, looking for the remaining pre-earthquake buildings. Of course, the city has endured many earthquakes since, but none like the 1906 quake and its aftermath.

I liked the tie in between Russell's memories and the earthquake happenings that she didn't experience. It is a good historical treatment.

So, maybe it is odd that I liked the treatment of the historical events highlighted in this story, but I didn't like the intersection with the historical figures. Maybe this is because the events were presented as past events (historical even to the characters in the story), but the historical figures were written in as part of the current events of the story.

Maybe I just like history to be presented as history. Maybe that is it.

But now I'm just hoping that the next book doesn't involve a run in with another historical figure.

Fiction, people, fiction. That's what I thought I had set out to read. That's what I want.

There's still enough fiction to keep me reading the series. And that is a good thing. More fiction!

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