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Garment of Shadows: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 4, 2012
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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?
“The great marvel of King’s series is that she’s managed to preserve the integrity of Holmes’s character and yet somehow conjure up a woman astute, edgy, and compelling enough to be the partner of his mind as well as his heart.”—The Washington Post Book World
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
Top customer reviews
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...
Barr's latest work, "The Rope," was her best in years. And King's latest Mary Russell book, "Garment of Shadows," was also a move in the right direction.
"Garment of Shadows," picks up where King's last book left off and since I hadn't read that or some of the other books in the series that Shadows makes reference to, there were points where I was slightly lost.
In "Garment of Shadows" Mary Russell wakes up in Morocco with no memory of who she is how she got there. The book alternates storylines for a while as Mary tries to piece her life together and Holmes searches for his missing wife.
I always love a good amnesia story and I wish Mary's amnesia would have lasted throughout the book. I think it would have created more tension and a bigger payoff when her memory finally came back.
There were times when the pace of the book slowed to something a snail might appreciate. There was far too much dialogue, but the when the book picks up the pace, adding more action and throwing Mary into unforeseen dangers it really hits its stride.
Overall, this book is not the best nor the worst of the Mary Russell series and I was glad to be reading a Mary Russell book that I kept finding myself turning to whenever I had a spare minute to read.
Most recent customer reviews
us girls love him too ya know.