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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 A Mary Russell Novel
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
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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1.0 out of 5 stars A Study In Mashochism Sept. 21 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I can't believe I got suckered again. I'd promised myself I wasn't going to waste my time with another Laurie King novel, but I grabbed the book to take sailing. In retrospect, drowning would have been preferable.
First, the plot... you need to be a detective to find it.
Second, the characters... Doesn't this author have an editor? If you're an ardent old-time feminist without otherwise a life (or relationship) of your own, you may rave about the one dimensional characters. King's males are shallow blackguards, except for her masturbatory famtasy of Holmes, varying between emotionally distant and pliantly submissive. Blech. That's not a man and it certainly wasn't Holmes. For the third (and last, I swear) time in as many books, I find myself wondering if King has ever read any of the Doyle Canon.
Third, the setting... I recall one review of A Monstrous Regiment of Women which said King's Victorian era was populated by American 1970's feminists. She got that right. It's always a challege for period authors to place their characters without imbuing them with the authors' "modern" politics and philosphy. Obviously, King missed that lesson in class and still hasn't made it up. (And I loved the review that instead recommended Beavis and Butthead.)
And that's really the problem. In the early days of "women's liberation", we had underground newsletters and newspapers like Rat, many that published feminist fiction, much of it pretty awful. Some of us have moved forward, some haven't, but now those that haven't waste our trees and time with tripe masquerading as mainstream "literature" instead of the fodder for those long-gone newsletters.
I buried the book at sea and prayed it doesn't wash ashore.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the humanization of Holmes Aug. 30 2003
By audrey
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It is the summer of 1923. England is recovering from the First World War, and the Second is not yet on the horizon. Russell and husband Holmes are busy with their various pursuits in the quiet Sussex countryside when an old friend's afternoon visit and subsequent murder get them embroiled in a mystery with lots of red herrings. Mary and Sherlock, assisted by Inspector LetradeJr., Mycroft and Billy of the Baker Street Irregulars, go undercover to investigate suspects. Again, as in earlier instalments, interactions and dialogues between Russell and Holmes are the high points of the book, so their working separately unfortunately limits their time together.
King writes about Holmes in love so delightfully and so plausibly. It's wonderful to think of him having this charming and affectionate relationship with a strong and intelligent woman. Who'd have thought Holmes would become the romantic hero of the 21st century? King has also created a terrific heroine in Mary Russell, with wit and intelligence shining through her turbulent adolescence, her blossoming young adulthood, and now her early marriage and academic career. I look forward to further books in the series, and hope there will be children!
If you demand an intriguing and difficult mystery, you will probably not be satisfied, but if you are a Holmes fan with a heart, you should enjoy this third book in the Mary Russell series.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
"A Letter Of Mary" is the third instalment of Laurie King's Mary Russell series and by far the strongest yet. For those not au fait with the background, these novels take place in the early decades of the 20th century and feature an officially-retired Sherlock Holmes and his much younger wife (yes, wife) Mary Russell. Russell is also a feminist and has a talent for theology, two factors which often have bearing on the cases the pair investigates.
Here, Holmes and Russell are visited by an archaeologist acquaintance who leaves them with a letter written by a certain Mary of Magdala to her sister. Russell identifies this author as the Biblical Mary Magdalene, and when the letter describes Mary as "an apostle of Jesus", Russell's theological and feminist instincts are both piqued. The archaeologist, Dorothy Ruskin, dies shortly thereafter and our heroes are quick to investigate.
By this point in the series, it is clear that King's development of the Russell character is prepared once again to take a backseat to the plot and the intellectual repartee between the two investigators. Where "Letter"'s predecessor, "A Monstrous Regiment Of Women" features long passages discussing feminism, "Letter" does not and is much better for it.
The repartee itself is positively sparkling here. One prime example feaures Holmes and Russell discussing the exigencies of their particular disguises, Russell makes a statement which reminds Holmes of the convoluted grammar of French translation and the two of them continue in this vein for some time. Likewise, Holmes' segue later on into a quote from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Mikado" is so well placed as to leave the reader wondering what on earth it comes from - while answering that same question just after it becomes unbearable not to know.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A great book and the author always does a great job with her writing and the relevance to Sherlock Holmes.
Published 13 months ago by Marlene
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Theme
'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... Read more
Published on May 31 2009 by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Diminishing returns
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... Read more
Published on April 13 2004 by musickna
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and Fun!
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. Read more
Published on April 1 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars King Runs Out of Narrative Steam
While I enjoyed the first two books as light reading, this third one puts an end to my reading of the Mary Russell series. Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2004 by J. Garlen
5.0 out of 5 stars Third book in an excellent series...
All things are quiet for Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, until Dorothy Ruskin, an amateur archeologist, brings them a scroll dating from the first century. Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2003 by meiringen
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting novel
Laurie king has taken the old holmes and provided a new spin. these are not for everyone, but the heroine is not sloppy nor precious, but intelligent and interesting. Read more
Published on July 10 2003 by Reality tourist
1.0 out of 5 stars There Are Lots Better Out There for Holmes Fans
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... Read more
Published on July 1 2003 by Lee Enderlin
4.0 out of 5 stars It's All About View--Point of View
Once again, Russell and Holmes are at it again in this third delightful book by Laurie R. King, which is a delight to read. And that's it. Read more
Published on June 4 2003 by "ali-alina"
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