I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
It is 1921 and Mary Russell--Sherlock Holmes's brilliant apprentice, now an Oxford graduate with a degree in theology--is on the verge of acquiring a sizable inheritance. Independent at last, with a passion for divinity and detective work, her most baffling mystery may now involve Holmes and the burgeoning of a deeper affection between herself and the retired detective. Russell's attentions turn to the New Temple of God and its leader, Margery Childe, a charismatic suffragette and a mystic, whose draw on the young theology scholar is irresistible. But when four bluestockings from the Temple turn up dead shortly after changing their wills, could sins of a capital nature be afoot? Holmes and Russell investigate, as their partnership takes a surprising turn.
***2019 The Summer of Sherlock***
So after the first book of this series (The Beekeeper's Apprentice), I wasn’t sure what I thought of this iteration of the Sherlock Holmes story. But this book is so much more appealing. I surrender, I like this series.
The biggest part of my change of mind may be the obvious feminism in this volume. I love Mary Russell’s refusal to be hemmed in by the mores of the day. Cross-dressing when that’s better for getting things done, pursuing investigations not sanctioned by any man, and just generally being in charge of her own life (especially now that she’s inherited her family’s wealth and can reorder as desired).
I think I also enjoyed this book more because Mr. Holmes played such a small part in it. I mean, yes, he’s there, but Mary is undoubtedly the main character and she is the one driving the plot. King has ramped up the female presence in the detective story by orders of magnitude. I’m also fond of Mary’s friend, Veronica (Ronnie). There’s a woman who knows how to get shit done!
I was also interested to read in the afterword that the third book in the series was actually written second. Ms. King needed to know where Mary was headed before she could write the book that actually got her to the destination. So this may be volume 2 of the series, but it was volume 3 in the writing process. Information like this about the writer’s process is fascinating and I wish more authors would write afterwords about their novels.