A Letter of Mary Mass Market Paperback – Jan 5 1998
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A great book and the author always does a great job with her writing and the relevance to Sherlock Holmes.Published on Sept. 4 2013 by Marlene
'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 morePublished on May 31 2009 by Amazon Customer
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 morePublished on April 13 2004 by musickna
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 morePublished on April 1 2004
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 morePublished on Jan. 28 2004 by J. Garlen
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 morePublished on Sept. 9 2003 by meiringen
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 morePublished on July 10 2003 by Reality tourist
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 morePublished on July 1 2003 by Lee E.