FFB: A Letter of Mary

this is the 207th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Letter of MaryA Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King, Bantam 1998 paperback, featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, 3rd in series – mystery

This is set in 1923 and involves the suspicious death of Dorothy Ruskin, an amateur archeologist recently returned from Palestine, who gives Mary a letter dated about A.D. 70 written by “Mariam the Apostle” to her sister in Magdala. Mary Magdalene? An Apostle?

In this one, Russell, Holmes, Mycroft and Lestrade Jr. combine forces. Red herrings define the political and cultural climate: a retired colonel’s opposition to women’s suffrage; Ruskin’s interest in Zionism; the British Near East scholar/spy network; the tumultuously upsetting implications of the letter for organized Christianity. The investigation also includes the Ruskin family.

King does an excellent job depicting the complex relationship between Holmes and Russell, two individualists. Almost 40 years apart, they’re fondly indulgent of one another’s idiosyncrasies and share intellectual camaraderie, companionable humor and sexual attraction. While Sherlock delivers ongoing tutelage in arcane clue analysis, Mary hypnotizes a witness to prod her memory.

If you can’t imagine the misogynist Sherlock Holmes sharing domestic bliss, this novel may make you a believer.

I liked this one better than the second in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women. At first I was worried this book would become a religious tract, but that didn’t happen, the focus was on solving the murder and I liked the way King played the various personalities against each other. Very good, and I recommend the series. If you haven’t read any of these yet, start at the beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to FFB: A Letter of Mary

  1. Like you, I’ve enjoyed this series. Laurie King has been producing Good Work for years.

  2. Jerry House says:

    I’ve read only the first in the series. I should remedy that.

  3. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I read BEEKEEPER’S APPRENTICE as I think I’ve mentioned. Despite the fact that it is very well written I couldn’t buy the premise at all. It just wasn’t for me.

  4. Steve Lewis says:

    My sentiments lie with Jeff’s. Just couldn’t get into this series. I know it’s very popular, so I’ve always assumed it was only me.

  5. Have only read one of the Holmes take offs, a long time ago.

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