Saturday, December 20, 2014

Book Review: Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King

Garment of Shadows
Author: Laurie R. King
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
Publications: Bantam; Reprint edition (August 20, 2013)

Description: Laurie R. King’s New York Times bestselling novels of suspense featuring Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, comprise one of today’s most acclaimed mystery series. Now, in their newest and most thrilling adventure, the couple is separated by a shocking circumstance in a perilous part of the world, each racing against time to prevent an explosive catastrophe that could clothe them both in shrouds.

In a strange room in Morocco, Mary Russell is trying to solve a pressing mystery: Who am I? She has awakened with shadows in her mind, blood on her hands, and soldiers pounding on the door. Out in the hivelike streets, she discovers herself strangely adept in the skills of the underworld, escaping through alleys and rooftops, picking pockets and locks. She is clothed like a man, and armed only with her wits and a scrap of paper containing a mysterious Arabic phrase. Overhead, warplanes pass ominously north.

Meanwhile, Holmes is pulled by two old friends and a distant relation into the growing war between France, Spain, and the Rif Revolt led by Emir Abd el-Krim—who may be a Robin Hood or a power mad tribesman. The shadows of war are drawing over the ancient city of Fez, and Holmes badly wants the wisdom and courage of his wife, whom he’s learned, to his horror, has gone missing. As Holmes searches for her, and Russell searches for her self, each tries to crack deadly parallel puzzles before it’s too late for them, for Africa, and for the peace of Europe.

With the dazzling mix of period detail and contemporary pace that is her hallmark, Laurie R. King continues the stunningly suspenseful series that Lee Child called “the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today.”

My Thoughts: Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell find themselves in Fez, Morocco, this time. Mary and Sherlock are separated. Mary wakes up in a strange place, injured, and without her memory. She runs from soldiers and wanders the poorer area trying to remember who she is and learn where she is. She does learn that she has some skills as a pickpocket, acrobat, and thief but doesn't really learn much about herself in her explorations.

Meanwhile, Sherlock who had been off visiting a distant cousin, returns to rejoin Mary only to discover that she is missing. He immediately begins a hunt for her which leads him to Fez. In 1924, things in Morocco are tense. The country is divided between the Spanish and the French and the natives are unhappy with both. The man in charge of the French Protectorate is Holmes' cousin.  The native rebel forces are well-armed because they have had victories over the Spanish and gotten a lot of their arms from the captured armies.

The rebels themselves are not united. The two factions are controlled by Raisuni who is the last of Barbary pirates and who has made substantial funds by kidnapping and ransoming Europeans and the Abd al-Klims who are Western educated and anxious for independence for their country. The land is full of spies and supporters of all political interests. Mary soon learns that her friends Mahmoud and Ali Hzir (from O Jerusalem and Justice Hall) who are British agents controlled by Mycroft Holmes are deep in the mix of spies.

Mary has to recover her memory, rescue her friend Mahmoud, and determine who is pulling the strings, and what strings they are pulling, in this very troubled region. She is battered, shot at, and kidnapped in the course of her investigation.

What I really like about this series of historical mysteries is that I learn so much about pieces of history that I never knew about. I also really like Mary as a main character. She is an intellectual and physical equal to her husband Sherlock Holmes even though she is probably 50 years his junior and only about 24. She is a scholar and a reluctant investigator. She also has a strong moral compass that has been putting her at odds with Mycroft's machinations in these last couple books.

The language, because the stories are told in Mary's voice, is articulate and descriptive without being flowery. Mary has a dry sense of humor.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes will enjoy this series and this latest episode of Mary Rusell's and Sherlock Holmes' adventures. I loved it!

Favorite Quote:
It was reassuring, really, if still maddening. When the man who claimed to be my husband (he did not look like someone who fit the word husband) said my name, faint reverberations had gone down my spine, stirring—not so much memories as the shadow of memories. As if I were outside of a library (libraries—those I remembered!) anticipating the treasures within.

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