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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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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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However, although "Garment of Shadows" was far better than the last few novels in this series, I was still a bit disappointed that Ms King has not returned completely to the spirited interplay between Sherlock and Mary that was such a joy to read in the early books and which her fans (myself included) really appreciated.
First the good stuff: Ms King does her research quite well, and this was a nice portrayal of 1920s Morocco under Lyautey's tenure. I know Morocco very well indeed and this was both sympathetic and colourful, evoking the street life of this medieval city. And yet, I was a bit disappointed that with all the good descriptions and research that formed the backbone of this book, that she had not looked into the Arabic translations that she threw in from time to time throughout the book; some were accurate but others were not and I found this really hard to take. Also, Moroccan Arabic is dialectal, and while based on classical Arabic, it combines Berber (and because of the French protectorate years, also French), therefore both Sherlock and Mary would have stood out like sore thumbs and not blended in (particularly Sherlock in his guise of a traveling fqih) if they were speaking Middle Eastern Arabic! I may be nitpicking here but Ms King's other research was pretty good so it seemed a bit of a failing for me.
I was very glad that Mary and Sherlock are back together again (well, sort of...) and that they were equals in this novel. However, (and I may be wrong here) I really do feel that her legion of fans miss the spirited verbal sparring and tension (sexual and otherwise) of the earlier novels. Such emotion came through in the writing with a single glance, a touch on the arm, a sort of breathless anticipation of what will or could be, or even something as simple as the emotions when Sherlock tenderly brushes Mary's hair. I do not think anyone wants something overt but it just seems a shame that Ms King portrays this dynamic pair as having sunk into some sort of domesticated, boring personal relationship while their mystery-solving lives are fraught with danger and adventure. And yes, I think that they can have it all.
Nevertheless, I am so glad that Sherlock is back in form in this story. He is a fascinating character and Ms King did him justice in earlier novels; and I do hope that he and Mary continue to be equals, playing off each other in spirited interchange and off on their adventures again. A whole panoply of occasionally louche characters seem to crop up in her novels which are great fun, as well, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series!
I had high hopes for this one as I saw some good reviews before I read it. Unfortunately, I felt almost immediately bogged down by the historical details. I read loads of historical fiction and I think the best of it gives you some detail, but doesn't overwhelm you with it. If I don't understand the background as much as I feel necessary, I look it up on Wikipedia or in history books. The relationship of the husband and wife team was mostly left out. They were on completely separate trips. I hate to say this, but I think I'm thru with this series. Ms. King is an excellent writer and that makes this all the harder. I'll still buy and read her SALs and will definitely try any new series she may start. But Goodbye to Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes...
What made those first few novels so intriguing was the growth of a co-equal professional team layered atop a romance that readers of Conan Doyle had come to accept as impossible. Russell and Holmes worked together. Mysteries were solved with Mary noticing details that escaped Sherlock and Sherlock seeing connections that Mary did not. But a trend developed. The easiest way for Mary to know things that Sherlock doesn't is to send her off on a parallel thread of the problem. In the last few novels this trend has matured to a point where they are rarely together in the same chapter. This separation even impairs communication; wife and husband are so much apart that they don't have time to fit together their separately acquired pieces of the puzzle.
Laurie King had a brilliant idea - far and away the best of the post-Doyle "new" Sherlock Holmes genre. Moreover, she has a gift for evocative language and I love the care she gives to her historical research. But there is at this point in the Russell/Holmes canon a tinge of sadness for those of us who loved the incisive and resilient mind of Doyle's Holmes. To me, Garment of Shadows is the beginning of the end. Holmes is eclipsed by Russell and sits mute and smoking as she plays his part in the library scene; the mentee becomes the mentor. On this arc, somewhere in the future we will witness the inevitable death of Holmes. I will want to read this novel because I know King's Mary will do it justice, but I would much rather have the co-equal team solve a hundred mysteries in 1910 than force my childhood fictional hero to obey the laws of human mortality and slowly give way to the next generation.
There is a revealing interview with Laurie King in the Editorial Reviews section here on Amazon. In it King asserts that she began by imagining Holmes as a supporting character. She softens this with a later recognition of his complexities and I still think she understands Holmes' humanity better than Doyle did, but this doesn't assuage my disappointment that she has abandoned Holmes to his dotage in order to shine a brighter light on Mary Russell.
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us girls love him too ya know.