I grew up on Superman, the Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, and assorted other male heros. So the heros of my own novels tend to be male. I have to make a conscious effort to cast a woman in a heroic part in one of my sf/f novels, though I managed it in DREAMSPY they tell me.
I could never have accepted Sherlock Holmes as a woman in some alternate universe continuation. Laurie R. King has found the perfect compromise -- an apprentice who is a)female, b)a love interest who becomes Holmes' wife, and c) oh, very much a hero in her own right, without losing the characteristics of a woman of her time. (she reminds me of my grandmother)
Many of us think of the 1970's as the most significant period of feminism. But the 1920's were pivotal in changing the way women think about themselves too. JUSTICE HALL is set in 1923, in and around a ducal country house, a mansion slowly being taxed into a ruin.
The 1920's were an interesting time in England -- there was still a very strong feudal heirarchy in charge of everything, but the modern world was fast emerging from within that caste system.
Laurie R. King has captured the flavor of that era without an overburden of unnecessary detail. She has used the correct words to name various things we don't see everyday in the 21st century. She has transported us to a drafty, cold, impossible to heat, understaffed mansion and made us believe every word.
Here Holmes isn't even certain he has a case, and with Mary Russell on the job, he ends up solving 2 cases.
Over the course of this series of novels, we have seen Mary Russell become proficient in Holmes' "methods" -- and with that proficiency has come Holmes' trust.
In JUSTICE HALL as in many of the other novels in this series, they work the case separately, but with beautiful coordination. I loved watching the two of them assessing the dual personalities displayed by their "guides" from O JERUSALEM. King has given us the vision of the deep cover secret agent's primary problem and made us believe every word.
One important point is contained in the author's afterword regarding the changes in the law pertaining to a soldier who deserts under fire or refuses an order under combat conditions. This is fiction rooted in historic reality, and yet still very definitely fiction.
What I like best of all I think is that now I get a chance to BE Sherlock Holmes by walking in Mary Russell's shoes!
I had the delightful experience of finishing JUSTICE HALL and starting THE GAME immediately. For those new to these books, I'd recommend amassing as many of them in the correct order as you can and just reading them straight through.