Garment of Shadows: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Sep 4 2012
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“The great marvel of King’s series is that she’s managed to preserve the integrity of Holmes’s character and yet somehow conjure up a woman astute, edgy, and compelling enough to be the partner of his mind as well as his heart.”—The Washington Post Book World
Praise for Garment of Shadows
“As always, the relationship between Holmes and Russell is utterly understated yet traced with heat and light.”—Booklist (starred review)
“[A] taut tale . . . original and intriguing . . . This tantalizing glimpse into the life and times of a rapidly evolving Arabic society has remarkable resonance for our own uncertain times.”—Publishers Weekly
“Those new to the series are in for a treat.”—Bookreporter
The award-winning novels of Laurie R. King are . . .
“A lively adventure in the very best of intellectual company.”—The New York Times
“Erudite, fascinating . . . by all odds the most successful re-creation of the famous inhabitant of 221B Baker Street ever attempted.”—Houston Chronicle
“Intricate clockworks, wheels within wheels.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Imaginative and subtle.”—The Seattle Times
“Impossible to put down.”—Romantic Times
“Remarkably beguiling.”—The Boston Globe
About the Author
Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve Mary Russell mysteries, five contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, and the acclaimed novels A Darker Place, Folly, Keeping Watch, and Touchstone. She lives in Northern California.See all Product Description
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Other things you may find worth knowing from the get-go: 1. The story opens with heroine/narrator Mary Russell waking up with a head injury, not knowing where she is or even WHO she is. Readers will spend much of those early pages sharing her amnesic confusions over what's going on and where this story is headed. 2. Unless you know the basics of Moroccan colonial and tribal history circa 1924, you may find it useful to consult an encyclopedia or Wikipedia for a quick primer before digging in. 3. The Hazr brothers, who play key roles in this novel, have appeared previously in the series-in O Jerusalem (Mary Russell Novels)(1999) and Justice Hall (Mary Russell Novels)(2002). 4. Arabic words crop up frequently, but only a few are defined in the glossary at the back. 5. Sherlock's "cousin," Morocco's Resident General Lyautey, better known as the Marachal, was a real person.
Plenty of high drama, as France, Spain, Germany and England try to assert their colonial dominance and tribal leaders plot against them and each other to claim their country as their own. Lots of interesting characters and nail-biting suspense here. Probably will appeal more to longtime fans of the series. But also to fans of history mysteries, like Barry Unsworth's Land of Marvels: A Novel
Has anyone else noticed that it's been a long while since King gave us a non-series, stand-alone thriller? Would love to see another one of those sometime soon.
UPDATE 6/29/13: Seems I am (we are?) about to get my/our wish.
King has a new stand-alone thriller coming out September 10, 2013 titled "The Bones of Paris" !!!
And, indeed, there are some reviews which say almost exactly that -- with an extra layer of "and thank heavens King is back on form."
But what shocked me were the 3 reviews making, roughly, this argument:
~there's too much Mary Russell in this Russell/Holmes book
~there's too much history and politics to learn
~there's not enough action [in a book where no one sits down for 5 minutes altogether unless concussed or chained]
~there's not enough Sherlock Holmes.
According to this trio, King should return to "the premise that Sherlock Holmes had lived into an amazingly hearty old age, adopted an apprentice and then fallen in love with -- and married her.
Holmes, you'll note, operates in the active voice, while Russell is his to adopt, to love, and to marry. Wait!?!! Did I miss our mass relocation to the 1950s? (1850s, 1750s, 16 . . ???)
Now I'm not saying that King hasn't deserved some chiding in the last few years -- 2 half-books passing as wholes and pirates-light (or even lite.) But, viewed from a distance, we might see a larger pattern here.
The trip to India gives us an adventure with Russell and Holmes separated for considerable chunks of action, and -- more symbolically -- the threshold-crossing act of Mary cutting her iconic hair. The San Francisco book (one of my favorites) is a foray into Mary's childhood as well as a long-delayed space for her to consider herself as a woman, not as a mind in a woman's body. The Russell we meet in The Bee-Keeper's Apprentice is a product of circumstances, as much as of courage and intellect. She has spent her adolescence reacting from and against things beyond her control; learning has been her North star and she had let that guide her to the exclusion of nearly everything else. The next novels follow rapidly, giving Mary little time to develop an introspective analysis of herself as a human female. She doesn't give herself a 10th the time and attention that she lavishes on her scholarship, nor is she aware that she needs to.
But in Locked Rooms, she gets a space and time for that sort of personal contemplation.
I wish I could say something positive about the next two books, but I'm still furious with King about that "to be continued" followed by Puck of Pook's Whatever. But, in the context of this review, I can make a case for the books as coming-of-age novels for Russell, who plays the steady anchor to an atypically emotional Holmes. And then there's the pirate book, which is way better (sorry for the technical reviewer language) than the two half-books, but which seems largely contrived to give Russell a sort of Spring Break with detective interludes.
In this book, Garment of Shadows, Russell and Holmes weigh in as equals. Yes, yes, Holmes has that reputation, which casts its shadow even as he travels under the name Vernet, but by giving Russell the lion's share of the action, King evens that up nicely. And when there's saving to be done, Russell does it.
And then there's the drawing-room scene (actually, it is a library) much complained about by one reviewer. What? The library scene is the money shot, the pay-off, the natural progression, as Russell out-deduces not only a very very clever shadow figure, but Holmes himself.
Now I have absolutely no idea if King was trying for this sort of progression -- I just read books, I don't write them, well, I don't write mysteries -- but it seems, at the very least, a possible parsing of the series. Read this volume and see~
oh yes, sorry, TEARFUL REJOICING at King's return to the land of the 5-star review . . .
pps And I second Sharon Isch's plea for another stand-alone of the caliber of Touchstone and Folly.
ppps Ms King? Oxford? branchy between towers? are we really to believe that Russell, however in need of some interior development, can stay away from lark-charmèd Oxford -- her natural environment -- for this long? can go without her work for over a year? can read so very little????
Once again Holmes and his wife, Mary, find themselves caught up in the 'Great Game' this time in war torn Morocco. The pair had been looking forward to being reunited now that dreadful assignment Mycroft had given Mary was ending but when Holmes arrived to meet with her Mary was missing, and had left behind very few clues for him to follow. Mary meanwhile had woken up in a strange place, with a throbbing headache and no idea of who she was or how she had gotten there. The only thought that was clear to her was that she was in danger and needed to flee. Eventually the pair reunite but only to discover that all is not as it seems, and that once again their lives are moved by unseen forces.
This, like the rest of this series, is a light hearted adventure story, this time set in exotic Morocco. The colorful location and confused political situation of North Africa provide an intriguing setting for a plot that is full of twists and turns. King once again brings life to her characters, especially Mary and Sherlock as she tells this tale. Fans of the series will be happy to meet some old friends from earlier novels (O JERUSALEM and JUSTICE HALL) in this adventure, as well as to meet a new one who will hopefully return in later ones.
The overall story arc of this series is quite pronounced and so to fully appreciate this one I would recommend reading at least of some the earlier novels. An even better idea would be to begin at the beginning (THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE) and proceed in order.
No point in repeating the synopsis included with Garment of Shadows. I will note the synopsis is more lively and interesting than the novel, which has only a couple of chapters where the action isn't being explained in hindsight, or expounded upon in more excruciating historical detail than was necessary or bearable. It was a real chore to get to the end of GoS . . . I skimmed portions, stopped to savor the brief stretches where it seemed as if Holmes, Russell or Mahmoud and Ali might reveal more of themselves. But that emotional connection between character/story/reader just never happened for me.
Russell has always been emotionally cool, one of the attributes that made her such a good match for Holmes. But in their early days there was a discernible bond growing between teacher and student, mentor and friend, and finally husband and wife. I never expected fireworks between these two, but honestly I expected by the 12th novel there would be a deeper, quiet love and respect integrated into the stories. Instead Russell is increasingly distant, with an independence that seems more self-absorbed than strong.
There could have been a good story here: slash the historical exposition to the bare minimum to advance the story; give Holmes and Russell more chance to work in partnership, explore the natural development of their peculiar natures and the effect intimacy has on those natures; allow interesting secondary characters a chance to "show" readers what their part in the whole is (I'm thinking of poor Mahmoud and Ali here). Eliminate with extreme prejudice any desire to use amnesia as a plot device. Quit trying to smother the mystery/suspense body of the story with a big fluffy pillow of historical discourse.
If King produces another Russell/Holmes novel, I will borrow it from the library . . . but I'm not contributing any more money out of pocket until she writes a better story than Garment of Shadows.