The second in the delightful Mary Russell novels, “A Monstrous Regiment of Women,” sees our intrepid, eminently likeable young blue-stocking of a heroine turn 2, and take over her considerable inheritance from her hated aunt.

Mary’s life is as busy as ever.

She is finishing her Oxford thesis, and preparing to defend it.

She wonders increasingly about the exact nature of her feelings towards her mentor, one Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Mary meets up with Veronica Beaconsfield, an old friend from her Oxford undergraduate days, who is very involved in a feminist group called the New Temple of God.  This organization, headed by a mystic, mysterious woman called Margery Childe is part religious cult, part suffragette campaign, and part social welfare organization.  And much more.

Mary gets swept into a world of drugs and kidnapping, of unexplained deaths and attempted murders.

Sherlock Holmes is there at her side for part of the time, but Mary leads from the front.  She gets herself into and – thank goodness – out of all manner of scrapes, and it is only towards the closing moments of this hugely enjoyable novel that we are witness to one of the most unexpected moments in literature : Sherlock Holmes admitting his love for his much, much younger associate.

It is delicious.

“A Monstrous Regiment of Women” is clever, exciting and erudite.  Rather like young Mary Russell, in fact..

Published in 1995, the Bantam Books paperback edition costs $6.99 or Can $ 10.99

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