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.