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Garment of Shadows: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Paperback – August 20, 2013
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Q&A: Louise Penny interviewing Author Laurie R. King
Louise Penny Biography: Louise Penny is the New York Times bestselling author of eight Chief Inspector Gamache novels, which have won the New Blood Dagger, Macavity, Nero, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Agatha, Dilys, and Anthony Awards. She lives with her husband in Québec, where she is at work on her next novel.
Q: Garment of Shadows is the twelfth book in the Mary Russell series (along with the e-short story, Beekeeping for Beginners). How has Mary evolved for you from your first novels? Has she surprised you in any ways?
A: The Beekeeper's Apprentice was intended as a coming-of-age novel, in which a brilliant young mind grows into its own under the guidance of an equally brilliant, if unlikely, tutor: one Sherlock Holmes. That book set the stage for a life (and a relationship) that has circled the globe both physically and metaphorically, and over the decade of their adventures, she has definitely evolved.
As for surprising me, I'm the kind of writer who researches closely, plots vaguely, and then dives in and follows the characters as they meet the challenges of the time and place. I positively depend on my characters surprising me.
Q: A big part of your mysteries is the globetrotting element. What has led you to set your mysteries in so many places?
A: It isn’t just that it gives me an excuse to travel. Honestly.
Sherlock Holmes is English: specifically, a Londoner. Sherlock Holmes is also solitary, accompanied only by Dr. Watson. When I started writing Holmes, I envisioned him as a supporting actor, but soon found myself exploring his character, forcing him outside his stereotypes and making demands on him that Conan Doyle never did: a Victorian in a post-WWI world; a solitary man in a serious relationship; an Englishman in foreign lands.
And I was fascinated to find how he both developed and remained true to himself. Sherlock Holmes as a travelling magician in rural India, or a Bedouin in Palestine, is both the same man and intriguingly different.
Their travel also puts Russell on a more level plane with him, since even if he’s familiar with the country, she has the advantage of youth’s natural flexibility to adapt.
Q: How do you approach the historical relevancy of the time period and place? How much of the Arab Spring has influenced Garment of Shadows?
A: Historical fiction is both a window and a mirror. My readers are people who love to learn about other times and places (and yes, I am a compulsive researcher!). Yet without the reflection of our own concerns and experiences, a historical novel has as much appeal as a stack of 3”x5” cards.
As a writer, my primary task is to entertain. But we writers are sly, and we have deeper goals. We aim to leave the reader thinking, just a little, about these different yet oddly familiar people.
While I was writing Garment of Shadows, which draws in part on the 1920s Moroccan independence movement, the crowds gathered in Tahrir Square: no doubt that awareness wove its way into the story, just as the story now will weave its way into the minds of its readers. A novel is an entertainment, but it is also a mirror giving a new perspective on the world.
Q: If you could grant Russell and Holmes one modern convenience in solving their mysteries, what would it be?
A: Holmes would leap at the Internet, gloating over all the world's information at his fingertips. Russell, on the other hand, would love cell phones—she's forever wondering what on earth Holmes is up to.
Would it be cheating to give them both smart phones?
Praise for Garment of Shadows
“As always, the relationship between Holmes and Russell is utterly understated yet traced with heat and light.”—Booklist (starred review)
“[A] taut tale . . . original and intriguing . . . This tantalizing glimpse into the life and times of a rapidly evolving Arabic society has remarkable resonance for our own uncertain times.”—Publishers Weekly
“Those new to the series are in for a treat.”—Bookreporter
The award-winning novels of Laurie R. King are . . .
“A lively adventure in the very best of intellectual company.”—The New York Times
“Erudite, fascinating . . . by all odds the most successful re-creation of the famous inhabitant of 221B Baker Street ever attempted.”—Houston Chronicle
“Intricate clockworks, wheels within wheels.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Imaginative and subtle.”—The Seattle Times
“Impossible to put down.”—Romantic Times
“Remarkably beguiling.”—The Boston Globe
From the Hardcover edition.
More About the Author
In the Mary Russell series (first entry: The Beekeeper's Apprentice), fifteen-year-old Russell meets Sherlock Holmes on the Sussex Downs in 1915, becoming his apprentice, then his partner. The series follows their amiably contentious partnership into the 1920s as they challenge each other to ever greater feats of detection. For a complete list of the Mary Russell books in order, click here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B00CJLA42C/kindle/ref=sr_bookseries_null_B00CJLA42C.
The Kate Martinelli series, starting with A Grave Talent, concerns a San Francisco homicide inspector, her SFPD partner, and her life partner. In the course of the series, Kate encounters a female Rembrandt, a modern-day Holy Fool, two difficult teenagers, a manifestation of the goddess Kali and an eighty-year-old manuscript concerning Sherlock Holmes.
The Stuyvesant and Gray books feature Harris Stuyvesant, a Bureau of Investigation agent who finds himself far out of his depth, first in England during the 1926 General Strike (Touchstone), then in Paris during the sweltering confusion of September, 1929 (The Bones of Paris).
King also has written stand-alone novels--A Darker Place as well as two loosely linked novels, Folly and Keeping Watch--and a science fiction novel, Califia's Daughters, under the pseudonym Leigh Richards.
King grew up reading her way through libraries like a termite through balsa before going on to become a mother, builder, world traveler, and theologian.
She has now settled into a genteel life of crime, back in her native northern California. She has a secondary residence in cyberspace, where she enjoys meeting readers in her Virtual Book Club and on her blog.
King has won the Edgar and Creasey awards (for A Grave Talent), the Nero (for A Monstrous Regiment of Women) and the MacCavity (for Folly); her nominations include the Agatha, the Orange, the Barry, and two more Edgars. She was also given an honorary doctorate from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific.
Check out King's website, http://laurierking.com/, and follow the links to her blog and Virtual Book Club, featuring monthly discussions of her work, with regular visits from the author herself. And for regular LRK updates, follow the link to sign up for her email newsletter.
Top Customer Reviews
Other things you may find worth knowing from the get-go: 1. The story opens with heroine/narrator Mary Russell waking up with a head injury, not knowing where she is or even WHO she is. Readers will spend much of those early pages sharing her amnesic confusions over what's going on and where this story is headed. 2. Unless you know the basics of Moroccan colonial and tribal history circa 1924, you may find it useful to consult an encyclopedia or Wikipedia for a quick primer before digging in. 3. The Hazr brothers, who play key roles in this novel, have appeared previously in the series-in O Jerusalem (Mary Russell Novels)(1999) and Justice Hall (Mary Russell Novels)(2002). 4. Arabic words crop up frequently, but only a few are defined in the glossary at the back. 5.Read more ›
And, indeed, there are some reviews which say almost exactly that -- with an extra layer of "and thank heavens King is back on form."
But what shocked me were the 3 reviews making, roughly, this argument:
~there's too much Mary Russell in this Russell/Holmes book
~there's too much history and politics to learn
~there's not enough action [in a book where no one sits down for 5 minutes altogether unless concussed or chained]
~there's not enough Sherlock Holmes.
According to this trio, King should return to "the premise that Sherlock Holmes had lived into an amazingly hearty old age, adopted an apprentice and then fallen in love with -- and married her.
Holmes, you'll note, operates in the active voice, while Russell is his to adopt, to love, and to marry. Wait!?!! Did I miss our mass relocation to the 1950s? (1850s, 1750s, 16 . . ???)
Now I'm not saying that King hasn't deserved some chiding in the last few years -- 2 half-books passing as wholes and pirates-light (or even lite.) But, viewed from a distance, we might see a larger pattern here.
The trip to India gives us an adventure with Russell and Holmes separated for considerable chunks of action, and -- more symbolically -- the threshold-crossing act of Mary cutting her iconic hair. The San Francisco book (one of my favorites) is a foray into Mary's childhood as well as a long-delayed space for her to consider herself as a woman, not as a mind in a woman's body.Read more ›
Once again Holmes and his wife, Mary, find themselves caught up in the 'Great Game' this time in war torn Morocco. The pair had been looking forward to being reunited now that dreadful assignment Mycroft had given Mary was ending but when Holmes arrived to meet with her Mary was missing, and had left behind very few clues for him to follow. Mary meanwhile had woken up in a strange place, with a throbbing headache and no idea of who she was or how she had gotten there. The only thought that was clear to her was that she was in danger and needed to flee. Eventually the pair reunite but only to discover that all is not as it seems, and that once again their lives are moved by unseen forces.
This, like the rest of this series, is a light hearted adventure story, this time set in exotic Morocco. The colorful location and confused political situation of North Africa provide an intriguing setting for a plot that is full of twists and turns. King once again brings life to her characters, especially Mary and Sherlock as she tells this tale. Fans of the series will be happy to meet some old friends from earlier novels (O JERUSALEM and JUSTICE HALL) in this adventure, as well as to meet a new one who will hopefully return in later ones.
The overall story arc of this series is quite pronounced and so to fully appreciate this one I would recommend reading at least of some the earlier novels. An even better idea would be to begin at the beginning (THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE) and proceed in order.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Schemes within schemes and (spoiler alert) Mary figuring things out with amnesia while Holmes searches for her was stay-up-all-night inducing. Read morePublished 2 hours ago by Richard D. Weinberg
The Mary Russell series is wonderful: a feminine version of Sherlock Holmes. Lots of history and intrigue. Escapism at it's best.Published 2 months ago by Sandra B. Gauci
This was the last straw for me. No more Laurie King novels for this reader. It was all just running around from one improbable situation to another with a final wrapup where the... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bigfish
The only saving grace to this novel was the information about the Spanish & French protectorate of Morocco. When I finished this book i had to say HUH!!. It went around in circles. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Samantha
Another great Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novel. This one moved at a nice steady pace. I only have one left that I haven't read in this series which means I have to save it for a... Read morePublished 4 months ago by OctoberBaby