A Letter of Mary, by Laurie R. King

>> Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Back from my trip, I have a ton of books I want to post about. Too many plane trips mean I had to read a lot to amuse myself ;-)

But first, some quick comments about the last book I read before I left: A Letter of Mary, by Laurie R. King.

Late in the summer of 1923, Mary Russell Holmes and her husband, the illustrious Sherlock Holmes, are ensconced in their home on the Sussex Downs, giving themselves over to their studies: Russell to her theology, and Holmes to his malodorous chemical experiments. Interrupting the idyllic scene, amateur archaeologist Miss Dorothy Ruskin visits with a startling puzzle. Working in the Holy Land, she has unearthed a tattered roll of papyrus with a message from Mary Magdalene. Miss Ruskin wants Russell to safeguard the letter.

But when Miss Ruskin is killed in a traffic accident, Russell and Holmes find themselves on the trail of a fiendishly clever murderer. Clearly there was more to Miss Ruskin than met the eye. But why was she murdered? Was it her involvement in the volatile politics of the Holy Land? Was it her championing of women's rights? Or was it the scroll--a deeply troubling letter that could prove to be a Biblical bombshell? In either case, Russell and Holmes soon find that solving her murder may be murder itself.
I had read this one before, some years ago, and found it a nice read, if not too remarkable. I do believe I enjoyed it more this time, probably because what I've read in the meantime has allowed me to appreciate certain aspects even more. A B would be my grade.

The case itself wasn't so great. Maybe my problem was that I found the "Letter of Mary" itself particularly tantalizing, so then I got a bit disappointed when things soon went in a completely different direction.

What I did like, and very much, was the characterization, both of the protagonists and of the rest of the cast. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Russell and Holmes, which was one very much among equals, something I always relish. I do tend to get icked out by very big age differences, but it didn't bother me all that much here. I hope it doesn't either when I get the first book in the series, where Russell starts out at 15, I believe.

Oh, and I must mention a little Easter Egg which I adored! At one point, there's a cameo appearance by a "Peter" who could only have been Lord Peter Wimsey, as he's portrayed in all his piffling glory. It was a fun surprise, especially since the reason I started reading A Letter of Mary, in the first place, was that I had just finished Gaudy Night and since my attempt to read something completely different after it had failed, I wanted something else that was mystery-ish and set in the early 20th century.


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