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A Letter of Mary: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (A Mary Russell Mystery) Paperback – October 30, 2007
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Sherlock Holmes and his scholarly companion Mary Russell are caught up in an exciting mystery when an archaeologist leaves them with a treasured find, a papyrus supposedly written by Mary Magdalene. When the archaeoligist winds up dead and someone attempts to make off with the artifact, Holmes and Russel become embroiled in a rollicking story filled with political intrigue and highbrow sleuthing. The level of writing hasn't been higher in this Laurie King series.
From Publishers Weekly
King set a new paradigm for Holmesian scholarship with her inspired invention of a retired, still energetic Sherlock Holmes who trained young Mary Russell in The Beekeeper's Apprentice (1994) and then embraced her as a professional partner and wife (A Monstrous Regiment of Women, 1995). This third in the series, set in 1923, involves the suspicious death of Dorothy Ruskin, an amateur archeologist recently returned from Palestine, who gave Mary, an academic theologian, a letter dated about A.D. 70 written by "Mariam the Apostle" to her sister in Magdala. Mary Magdalene? An Apostle? Holmes and "Mrs. Sherlock," as Lord Peter Wimsey addresses her in a funny cameo, collaborate. Red herrings define the political and cultural climate: a retired colonel's opposition to women's suffrage; Dorothy's interest in Zionism; the British Near East scholar/spy network; the tumultuously upsetting implications of the letter for organized Christianity. The investigation also includes the Ruskin family. King's achievement is her depiction of the complex relationship between two individualists. Almost 40 years apart, they're fondly indulgent of one another's idiosyncrasies and share intellectual camaraderie, companionable humor and sexual attraction. While Sherlock delivers ongoing tutelage in arcane clue analysis, Mary hypnotizes a witness to prod her memory. If you can't imagine the misogynist Sherlock Holmes sharing domestic bliss, this novel will make you a believer. Major ad/promo; author tour; paperback rights: Bantam; audio rights: Durkin Hayes and Recorded Books.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Second, so much of the action in the book features Mary with Colonel Edwards investigating one of three possible theories postulated. But the author does not explore with any depth the theory Sherlock is investigating. Certainly the book's length would allow for such additional depth of narrative.
The author's writing as always is good. In fact, the writing is what propelled me to keep reading. The plot did not. Finally, about two hundred pages in the reader begins to see the heart of the mystery and the solution evolving.
In the end Sherlock says it best about the case and about my feelings for the book. "Ah, Russell, I had such hopes for this case, ... it's hardly worthy of any attention."
I feel just as disappointed as Sherlock. Better luck next time to both of us.
This installment was good, but definitely my least favorite out of the Mary Russell series so far. I find the stories that focus primarily on religion bore me. Since a major portion of this one's plot revolved around an item with possible biblical roots, I ended up extremely bored at times. It also doesn't help that Mary tends to nerd-out on religious theory.
Also, I wasn't into the undercover bit of this plot. Mary's work while incognito just seemed really... useless. I didn't understand her fear of becoming too much like the person she was pretending to be. Mostly because the woman Mary was impersonating was so opposite to who she actually is, that I didn't believe she would have a real fear of keeping herself separate. In addition, I couldn't comprehend her attraction to the man she was investigating. It's made clear that the person she was pretending to be would be attracted to him, but seriously? The guy was a misogynist douche and Mary noted being put-off by a lot of what he said and did, so I just didn't get her turmoil. However, the resolution of Mary coming to terms with what she felt while undercover was nicely done.
The other issue I had with this book came from feeling a little cheated at how much of the main mystery happened off page. I understand what King was trying to do by having it play out this way, but I didn't derive the same thrill from the "who did it" revelation at the end.
From this review, it sounds like I didn't like A Letter of Mary at all, but I did enjoy it. There's something comforting about King's writing and her characters are always entertaining. I just didn't click very well with the main plot of this book. All in all, it was a good addition to the series, but not one that I'll be revisiting anytime soon.