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A Letter of Mary [Mass Market Paperback]

Laurie R. King
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 5 1998 Mary Russell Novels
Late in the summer of 1923, Mary Russell Holmes and her husband, the illustrious Sherlock Holmes, are ensconced in their home on the Sussex Downs, giving themselves over to their studies: Russell to her theology, and Holmes to his malodorous chemical experiments. Interrupting the idyllic scene, amateur archaeologist Miss Dorothy Ruskin visits with a startling puzzle. Working in the Holy Land, she has unearthed a tattered roll of papyrus with a message from Mary Magdalene. Miss Ruskin wants Russell to safeguard the letter. But when Miss Ruskin is killed in a traffic accident, Russell and Holmes find themselves on the trail of a fiendishly clever murderer. Clearly there was more to Miss Ruskin than met the eye. But why was she murdered? Was it her involvement in the volatile politics of the Holy Land? Was it her championing of women's rights? Or was it the scroll--a deeply troubling letter that could prove to be a Biblical bombshell? In either case, Russell and Holmes soon find that solving her murder may be murder itself.

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From Amazon

Sherlock Holmes and his scholarly companion Mary Russell are caught up in an exciting mystery when an archaeologist leaves them with a treasured find, a papyrus supposedly written by Mary Magdalene. When the archaeoligist winds up dead and someone attempts to make off with the artifact, Holmes and Russel become embroiled in a rollicking story filled with political intrigue and highbrow sleuthing. The level of writing hasn't been higher in this Laurie King series. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

King set a new paradigm for Holmesian scholarship with her inspired invention of a retired, still energetic Sherlock Holmes who trained young Mary Russell in The Beekeeper's Apprentice (1994) and then embraced her as a professional partner and wife (A Monstrous Regiment of Women, 1995). This third in the series, set in 1923, involves the suspicious death of Dorothy Ruskin, an amateur archeologist recently returned from Palestine, who gave Mary, an academic theologian, a letter dated about A.D. 70 written by "Mariam the Apostle" to her sister in Magdala. Mary Magdalene? An Apostle? Holmes and "Mrs. Sherlock," as Lord Peter Wimsey addresses her in a funny cameo, collaborate. Red herrings define the political and cultural climate: a retired colonel's opposition to women's suffrage; Dorothy's interest in Zionism; the British Near East scholar/spy network; the tumultuously upsetting implications of the letter for organized Christianity. The investigation also includes the Ruskin family. King's achievement is her depiction of the complex relationship between two individualists. Almost 40 years apart, they're fondly indulgent of one another's idiosyncrasies and share intellectual camaraderie, companionable humor and sexual attraction. While Sherlock delivers ongoing tutelage in arcane clue analysis, Mary hypnotizes a witness to prod her memory. If you can't imagine the misogynist Sherlock Holmes sharing domestic bliss, this novel will make you a believer. Major ad/promo; author tour; paperback rights: Bantam; audio rights: Durkin Hayes and Recorded Books.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book Sept. 4 2013
By Marlene
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
A great book and the author always does a great job with her writing and the relevance to Sherlock Holmes.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars There Are Lots Better Out There for Holmes Fans July 1 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Like two of the other books in this series, the plot construction of "Letter of Mary" is so poor that as a professional writer myself, I was stunned that it even got published. It is an amazingly large flaw.
In this story, Russell and Holmes separate from each other in order to investigate two suspicious families. King then spends the bulk of the book discussing Russell's experiences. She doesn't let us know anything about what Holmes is doing-he's completely ignored during this part of the story. It all falls apart in the end when we learn in a rather offhand manner that the family that Holmes is investigating is harboring the perpetrator. King does not spend one word preparing us for that. Suddenly, we realize that we have spent 200 pages reading about nothing more than a wild goose chase! Russell's suspects turn out to have absolutely nothing to do with the crime! I was left with one question as I tossed the book away: "What on earth was the point of that?" I can understand having Russell as the main character, but why not have her solve the mystery instead of force-feeding the reader 200 pages of stuff that ultimately have nothing whatsoever to do with the plot? You could skip those pages and the story line wouldn't change at all. That tells me this book is just terribly written.
Two other books in this series, "A Monstrous Regiment of Women" and "The Moor" suffer the same fate. Also poorly plotted, they are not worth reading. The other two books I found to rise up to the level of mediocre. It's as if the publisher figured they could sell any book written by anyone with the last name of King.
If you're looking for some fresh, modern Holmes novels, try the series by Larry Millett. They are far, far better written and are much more enjoyable reads.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great Theme May 31 2009
Format:Mass Market Paperback
'A letter of Mary' is imaginative. It felt a bit like a 'Hitchcock' story. The plot wasn't as tight as King's other novels and I wasn't able to follow along very well, but I really enjoyed Russell and Holmes character - some uncharacteristic disguises. A great theme!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Diminishing returns April 13 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The first two books detailing the further imaginary adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Mary Russell, were entertaining - sadly the same cannot be said of the third, A Letter To Mary. The irritating elements of the first novels - an over-precious writing style and a marked inability to convincingly recreate the aura of Sherlock Holmes' society in England in the early 20th century - become far more pronounced here and a relatively weak and unexciting plot compounds the dissatisfaction. The writing slips into occasional preachiness and the characters are becoming less, rather than more, believeable. Disappointing to be sure - I hope the author regains the form of the earlier novels in her next effort.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and Fun! April 1 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have never had an interest in reading the Sherlock Holmes' novels, but I read The Beekeeper's Apprentice and enjoyed it. The last 2 weeks I've read the next two installments. I absolutely loved them. Russell and Holmes' relationship is warm, amusing, and sweet. I've ordered the next 3 in the series and will be anxious for any others the author may write.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A "Letter" worth reading. Feb. 18 2004
By A Customer
Laurie R. King's Sherlock Holmes pastiches are some of the most interesting and well written of that genre. This was the first one I read, and it made me an instant admirer of her Mary Russell series.
King's great strength is her characterization. Her Sherlock Holmes is a perfect combination of brilliance, insecurity, passion (both intellectual and emotional), and skill. She also draws heavily on the real world to make her novels deeper, an effect I particularly enjoy. Some examples of this are:
The short reference to a man named Tolkien at Oxford who is interested in runes. Those who know about J. R. R. Tolkien's professional life know that runes were a hobby of his, so this glancing note about him brought a smile to my face.
The short sketch of a man called Peter. Fans of Dorothy L. Sayers will recognize her debonair sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey as he slides smoothly through the story.
A few caveats:
Though I like this book, it does tend to bog down a bit, especially with huge side trails. This characteristic of King's writing has become crushingly obvious in her later novels, such as "The Moor" and "Justice Hall."
King's committment to radical ideas (like feminism, feminist theology, and tolerance of unconventionality) becomes obnoxious to those who don't share her beliefs. Though the issues here are not as persistant as those in "A Monstrous Regiment of Women" or "Justice Hall," they are there, niggling at the corner of one's vision.
In the end, though, I would recommend this book highly (and the others in the series) to all those who enjoy Sherlock Holmes, mystery, character development, and good writing.
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2.0 out of 5 stars King Runs Out of Narrative Steam Jan. 28 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
While I enjoyed the first two books as light reading, this third one puts an end to my reading of the Mary Russell series. The first two books proved entertaining despite various problems with characters and grating little errors, but the thin plot sinks this third book. The characters seem less developed and less interesting here, and most of the book is given over to false trails and irrelevant theological musings.
I have decided after finishing this third book to stick with Elizabeth Peters as my mystery writer of choice; her Amelia Peabody series does a lot more with the same time period and features stronger, more lively writing and characters. If you like academic period mysteries with female detectives, I suggest the Peabody books or Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen series instead.
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