There is so much buzz about this latest book in Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series, what with the amazing promotional blog tour that's been going on this spring, that I almost hesitate to write a blog post about it! But I do love these books - I've been reading them ever since the first one was published in 1994 (and I have reread them at least twice - they are that good). She does not pump them out, either - she writes other books and series, so the wait between installments is often several years. But they are so worth the wait.
The books take place in England and feature Sherlock Holmes - his later career - what happens after the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books leave off. But they are told from the point of view of Mary Russell, a teenager when we first meet her in The Beekeeper's Apprentice, whose brilliant mind is an excellent match for that of Holmes. If you have not read the series, I suggest (I know, I always do, but it's important!) starting at the beginning of this one. There are themes and plot lines that continue from book to book, and in the case of this particular series, the character development is a joy to follow from one book to the next.
This latest book opens with a surprising encounter (for Holmes and Mary as well as the reader): after returning home to England from their lengthy journey across the globe, they find a young man waiting for them - Holmes' son. There is a flashback that details events leading up to Holmes' discovery that he had a son (and faithful Holmes fans will immediately be able to guess who the young man's mother was). Damian understandably bears resentment toward this father who he did not meet till he was grown up, but he is in trouble - his wife and child are missing - and he hopes Holmes will be able to help. Mary and Holmes encounter a baffling array of clues and potentially connected events, from sacrifices at old circles of standing stones to dinner parties with members of the Bohemian art world in London.
King's novels are dense and richly woven, with characters and places that are evocative and memorable. This one is no exception. The writing is skillful, the dialogue serves to reveal much about the characters, and Mary's voice is strong and carries the narrative beautifully. I could have hoped for a slightly more conclusive ending, though - or at least more of a denouement. The ending came a bit too abruptly, and left me wondering about many things. I hope I won't be wondering about them for several more years! Despite that minor detail, I enjoyed the book very much. This is one of my all-time favorite series (although I have enjoyed the Kate Martinelli novels as well), and because of the wonderful characters and richly told stories, it is also one of the few mystery series that I enjoy rereading, even if I remember who did it. The books are about so much more than the mystery - as far as I'm concerned, the whodunit part is just the icing on the cake.
Books in the Mary Russell series:
1. The Beekeeper's Apprentice
2. A Monstrous Regiment of Women
3. A Letter of Mary
4. The Moor
5. O Jerusalem
6. Justice Hall
7. The Game
8. Locked Rooms
9. The Language of Bees
The Language of Bees (#9 in the Mary Russell series) by Laurie R. King (Bantam Books, 2009)
Also reviewed at:
Here, There, and Everywhere 2nd Edition: "If you like mysteries and don't mind reading of a woman that is every bit as smart (if not smarter) than her famous husband, Sherlock.. then you are in for a treat!!"
A Striped Armchair: "It’s become my favourite in the series, which is saying a lot, and I think the books just keep getting more and more wonderful. King had better not wait three years to publish the next volume!"
The Tome Traveller's Weblog: "I can't recommend this series highly enough, it has been a favorite of mine for many years. Writing does not get any better than the smart, snappy prose of Laurie R. King."