Of all the delightful novels in the Mary Russell series, Laurie R. King’s “A Letter of Mary” is perhaps the most tender and romantic, bordering at times on sensuous. In this book, we see at work the love that unites the young, clever, courageous Mary Russell and her much older, equally clever husband, one Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
The author’s craftsmanship and skill are displayed to dazzling effect in this novel, and from the moment we read the author’s preface, we are plunged headlong into a world of mystery, adventure, suspense, and her trademark inter-mingling of fact and fiction.
Or would that be fiction and fiction ?
What we have to remember, of course, is that Laurie R King is only transcribing manuscripts that she was sent in a trunk, many years earlier – the stage is thus set, and another delicious adventure starts.
This novel takes place entirely in England, though the Palestine Mary and her husband visited in an earlier adventure (“Oh Jerusalem”) is as integral part of the story as is the utterly delightful Dorothy Ruskin, whose brief appearance in the early chapters lights up the book, and drives the mystery from there on.
Mary Russell is as likeable and admirable a heroine as one could wish to meet.
Young, but wise beyond her years. Clever, but rather bored with her arcane academic word at Oxford. Tall, short-sighted, staunchly independent and feminist, very conscious of her Jewishness in an otherwise era of muscular Christianity, and utterly devoted to her older, and very famous husband.
Mary has to do a lot of detective work on her own in this book, much of it deathly boring, and she bemoans the fact that the writings of Dr. Watson “give the overall impression of the detective leaping into the fray, grasping the single most vital clue in an instant…There is little indication of the countless hours spent in cold, cramped watch…all are passed over with a laconic reference to the passage of time. Of course, Watson was often only brought in at the end of a case, and so he missed the tedium. I could not.”
We encounter a different side of Sherlock Holmes in this novel – he is more openly affectionate towards his delightful young wife, and worries dreadfully about her when she must go into a tricky situation to help with their murder investigation.
There are enough twists and turns in this clever book to keep the reader enthralled, as we encounter the other Mr. Holmes – the clever brother Mycroft, who blushes easily at some of his young sister-in-law’s teasing, and the young Inspector Lestrade, and a whole host of characters, both savoury and decidedly unsavoury.
Another great read from the pen of a witty, clever author.
Even the title is very clever.
A Letter of Mary (1997) is published by Bantam and the paperback costs $6.99.
Do read the book. It’s a gem. If you want to buy it right now, nothing could be easier. Just click on one of the links below :