by Laurie R. King
In this 5th Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell adventure, we go back in time a few years. While working on the major case in THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE (the 1st book in the series), Holmes and Russell took a work-related trip to the Middle East. What exactly they did there was glossed over in that book ... and now we get the details.
*** The Plot ***
Holmes's brother Mycroft, who is something of a spymaster for the British government, has a task for Holmes and Russell. There is something going on in and around Jerusalem that Mycroft thinks needs some extra attention. That's all we know at the start of the book - and that is all Holmes and Russell know as well. Oh, and we also know that Russell is Jewish and that she's always wanted to visit the Holy Land.
*** My Thoughts ***
The case develops very slowly this time, as our main characters need to adapt to a new culture and gain the trust of the people they are working with. The different pace worked well for me - I enjoyed the cultural immersion, myself.
This book contains one of the most humorous favorite conversations between Holmes and Russell so far. I don't have the book in front of me so I can quote directly but the situation is like this:
Holmes's back has been seriously injured so he can't get around like he usually does. While exploring some dank, dark, and cramped underground passages, Russell continually has to climb into crevices, down tunnels, etc. Holmes remarks in an amused manner that he should have thought of this earlier, having a young apprentice around to do all the dirty work.Ok, it doesn't sound so funny at the moment but it fits in so well with the rest of the book and it really IS funny at the time.
I read a review somewhere (sorry, can't remember whose it was) where the blogger said she didn't like this book as much because it went back to a time before Holmes and Russell's relationship developed. For her, the interaction wasn't as pleasing as in other books. This didn't bother me at all, but I think it is because I'm reading the books one after the other long after they were published. If I had been waiting for a new book to come out, anticipating the developments in the main characters' relationship, I would possibly have been disappointed when things seemed to be going backwards. But like I said, this didn't bother me at all, and I loved knowing what happened during those weeks that were glossed over in the first book.
*** My One Complaint ***
My only complaint - and this goes for all the SH/MR books, but I've just noticed it - is the abruptness of the endings. King's standard format seems go like this:
build up the case ... throw in red herrings ... tension ... Tension ... TENSION ... CLIMAX! ... the end ... brief epilogueThat formula is not necessarily a bad thing, but the speed with which the end of the book follows the climax of the case is a bit disconcerting to me. I'd like a bit more explanation of other characters' reactions to the case's solution, more info on the bad guy, etc. By no means does this ruin the book for me though - I have quite enjoyed each one in the series so far.
*** Other posts so far in my Month of Joyful Reading ***