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