Thursday, 6 March 2008

A Monstrous Regiment of Women

I wish I could remember who first recommended the Mary Russell series, by Laurie R. King, to me. It's a while ago, I do know that, probably a couple of years. I didn't actually read the first one, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, until I got a Blogspot journal and found several people here were big fans, Pat, Nan, Kay... I think and there may be more. Anyway, on their recommendation I read the first one last year and have just finished the second, A Monstrous Regiment of Women.



Mary Russell is now twenty one, and about to come into her not inconsiderable inheritance. She's finished her degree but still at Oxford studying, lecturing etc. Her relationship with the retired Sherlock Holmes is still a working, platonic one, but to Mary's consternation she finds her feelings towards him changing and becoming rather intense. At the same time a chance meeting with an old friend from university brings her into contact with Margery Childe. Margery is the enigmatic leader of The New Temple of God, a sect involved in feminism and helping disadvantaged woman. A good thing then? Possibly. Mary is uneasy about the set-up and takes her worries to Sherlock Holmes. Things escalate when one of the sect's wealthy followers is murdered, whereupon Mary discovers that a couple of others have also died in suspicious circumstances. With Holmes' help Mary sets about investigating and it isn't long before she herself is in mortal danger.

When I read the blurb about this second book I thought that maybe I wouldn't find a mystery about a religous sect that much to my taste. Well, I finished it in two days so judge for yourself how rivetting I found it. ;-) What kept me turning the pages? Well, Laurie King writes the Edwardian era really well. She also writes Sherlock Holmes very well, and in Mary Russell she has a heroine every bit his equal. Mary is bookish, intelligent, independent and not very 'girly'. She loves to dress up in men's clothes and solve crimes and isn't remotely intimidated by the intellect of Sherlock Holmes. Some might find the eventual romantic attachment of these two not to their taste - there is a huge age gap. Personally, I like the older man, younger woman thing in fiction, so am not remotely worried by it and these two are *very* suited to one another. In short, I think this series is wonderful and am so happy someone, whoever it was, introduced me to it.

7 comments:

DesLily said...

oh man... the books in England have nicer covers!!! Thankfully my "used" copy of The Moor has a similiar cover to the one you just read and I like that one ...
I read the first 4 books really fast (each one that is) and loved them all.. I am reading O Jerusalem.. this one takes a step back before they are married.. and it's much slower than any of the others (so far) not a lot of interaction with Holmes and Mary yet.. I hope (and expect) it to pick up!

Cath said...

LOL. See I like *your* covers over there and purposely bought the American version of The Moor and want the others when I can get them.

I'm guessing O Jerusalen deals with the time they spent in Isreal during The Beekeeper's Apprentice? I'll be interested to hear what you think when you've finished because that didn't sound as good as the others.

Nan - said...

Cath, have you seen Lilies? There's an uncomfortable part in it about a 1920s sort-of feminist, who really isn't so nice when it comes to a lower class young woman. I didn't connect it to this book when I saw it, but as you've reminded me, I think they are somewhat similar.

I liked Oh, Jerusalem very much. And the "Kim" one, Justice Hall, but I couldn't read the last one, Locked Rooms. Maybe if I read the print version it would be different, but listening to it sort of creeped me out. I've listened to all of the books, narrated by Jenny Sterlin who is just wonderful. Glad you are enjoying the series. I like Holmes and Russell as a couple. They aren't hurting anyone, or cheating on anyone. They are two exceptionally well suited people who were lucky enough to find one another. And don't you just love the 'conceit' (I think that's the word) of the author and the trunk full of MR's things??

Kay said...

Oooh, I like the cover too. Very gothic. I'm so happy you are enjoying these books. They are gems, in my opinion. I am a few behind in the series but will catch up at some point. I have to look up where I left off.

Cath said...

Hi Nan. No I haven't seen Lilies, I don't even recall the series being on the TV to be honest. It sounds like my kind of thing though. It does sound similar because Margery's followers definitely look down on Mary when she's not dressed very well and they think she's poor.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of the books, especially The Moor and the 'Kim' one, though I'll try to read 'Kim' first before I read that. Yes, the Editor's Preface bit at the beginning - I wasn't sure what to make of that when I first read it and still think it's rather odd, but clever.

Kay: You're so right, the books are absolute gems and I'm grateful to you as one of the people who encouraged me to read them.

Booklogged said...

I really like the Mary Russell series. I've been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for the next to come out.

Cath said...

Booklogged: It's hard to exaggerate how much I love this series and I've only read two of them! Luckily I have the first four already and am concentrating on getting the others, so plenty to get my teeth into. I wonder if a new one is in the pipeline? I hope so!