This is my fourth post about my project to read the entire Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King, which I used to be keen on, but then lost track of. Previous posts:
I’ve now read the next three installments in the series, books 8, 9 and 10, as well as a short story collection. Three of the books I read in Bavaria last week:
In this novel (which I already read in June), Russell and Holmes travel to San Francisco, where Russell spent part of her childhood before it brutally ended with the death of her mother, father and younger brother in a car accident. The story starts with our two protagonists on the ship bound for SF. Russell is plagued by strange dreams, has trouble sleeping and is irritable. Holmes becomes quite concerned, but later on we find that the dreams are due to Russell’s subconscious grappling with traumatic experiences she had as a child: the 1906 earthquake with it’s destruction of much of San Francisco and, at 14, the fatal accident of her family where she was the only survivor. Russell had been convinced for years that the accident was partly her fault, but this novel clears up what really happened and why.
For much of the novel, Russell denies that anything is wrong or that her family might have died for other reasons than just a random accident. Holmes therefore starts investigating behind Russell’s back (or at least without her involvement in his investigation). He teams up with Dashiell Hammett, the well-known writer of hard-boiled detective novels who worked for the Pinkerton detective agency (in real life). This was a fun little gimmick.
I liked this novel, because we learn something of Russel’s background before she met Holmes and because her childhood traumas are put into their proper perspective.
The Language of Bees
The novel is set directly after Locked Rooms. Russell and Holmes have just returned from America when a relative of Holmes turns up, needing help. The novel is about the involvement of the relative’s wife with a budding cult leader (I don’t want to reveal who the relative is, because that would be a major spoiler). The wife has disappeared and later her husband also disappears with their young daughter. It becomes a thrilling race against time to save the child and her father – let’s just say that the cult leader has some rather gruesome plans.
I really liked this book, as it contained some new revelations about Holmes and the story was thrilling. It is the last of my re-reads in this series. It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger (although not a very urgent one).
The God of the Hive
This novel goes on where the last one left off. Weirdly, I got it when in came out in 2010 but never read it until last week. Somehow, I lost momentum with the series and never found a good time to go on reading until this year, when I restarted the series from the beginning.
It turns out that the would-be cult leader was manipulated by another mastermind, someone who in this novel becomes very dangerous to all the members of the Russell/Holmes family, including Mycroft, the all-powerful spymaster. Most of the novel Russel and Holmes spend in hiding from the villain, but of course, they manage to foil him at the end. Some memorable secondary characters were introduced (some of which will turn up in later books) and all the open plot lines were nicely tied up. Russell had a bit of a (to my mind silly) crisis of faith in Mycroft, but otherwise it was an enjoyable read. I should have read it when it came out.
Mary Russell’s War
This is a collection of short stories some of which give some more and interesting background to some of the staples of the series. We get a story with Holmes point-of-view of his first meeting with Russell, we get some more of info about Russell’s childhood and a story when she is 92 years old. This one was rather strange as Holmes was still alive (!). He would have been about 128 years of by then, which was pretty unbelievable (there’s a bit of a joke about that in the beginning of the book). I’m kind of interested in how Russell would deal with Holmes’ death, since she is so much younger than him. So, I thought that this story was a bit of a cop-out. Still, it was tongue-in-cheek, so maybe I’ll get my “death of Holmes” novel at some time in the future.
The collection should not be read earlier in the series, as it contains some, if mild, spoilers for some of the novels in the series.
All-in-all, still a very enjoyable series and I’m thrilled at the prospect of now reading only completely new-to-me installments.
Keep safe, world.