Sunday, September 22, 2019

Book Review: Justice Hall by Laurie R. King

Justice Hall
Author: Laurie R. King
Series: Mary Russell (Book 6)
Publication: Bantam; First Edition edition (March 26, 2002)

Description: Just hours after Holmes and Russell return from solving the murky riddle of The Moor, a bloodied but oddly familiar stranger pounds desperately on their front door, pleads for their help, and then collapses. When he recovers, he lays before them the story of the enigmatic Marsh Hughenfort, younger brother of the Duke of Beauville, returned to England upon his brother’s death.Not until Holmes and Russell arrive in the village of Arley Holt can they fully understand Marsh’s dilemma.

For Justice Hall is a home of dizzying beauty and unearthly perfection, set in a garden modeled on Paradise. Russell longs for what it represents: permanence, history, the kind of roots that reach back for centuries. But Holmes senses the burdens echoed in the family motto, Justitia fortitudo mea est. And as Marsh seeks to live by the words, “Righteousness is my strength,” he is determined to learn the truth about the untimely death of Justice Hall’s expected heir...a puzzle he is convinced only Holmes and Russell can solve.

It’s a mystery that begins during the Great War of 1918, when young Gabriel Hughenfort, the late Duke’s only son, died amidst scandalous rumors that have haunted the family ever since. While Holmes heads to London to uncover the truth of Gabriel’s war record, Russell joins an ill-fated shooting party. A missing diary, a purloined bundle of letters, and a trail of ominous clues comprise a mystery that will call for Holmes’s cleverest disguises and Russell’s most daring journeys into the unknown...from an English hamlet to the city of Paris to the wild prairie of the New World. The trap is set, the game is afoot, but can they catch an elusive villain in the act of murder before they become his next victims?

A brilliant blend of traditional Holmesian myth, startling originality, complex plotting, and unforgettable characters set against a fully realized early-twentieth-century world, Justice Hall will delight readers with a mystery as intelligent as it is engagingly devious.

My Thoughts: Holmes and Russell have just returned home after their adventures on Dartmoor and are hoping for some quiet time when a knock at the door brings an old friend with a huge problem. Holmes and Russell met Ali Hazr in Palestine four years earlier. Now they are seeing him in his other identity as Alistair Hughenfort.

Ali has come to beg for their help in rescuing his brother Mahmoud from a future that he doesn't want. As the second son of the Duke of Beauville, he wasn't expected to ever inherit the dukedom and the tremendous responsibility and the weight of family tradition. However, his brother's heir nineteen-year-old Gabriel died during World War I and his brother died soon after.

Ali wants Sherlock and Mary to c.onvince Marsh Hughehfort to abdicate in favor of another heir so that they can resume their lives in Palestine as Mycroft's agents. Marsh is not happy with his new responsibilities. In fact, Mary likens him to a man who is just waiting to die. But his long family history won't let him abandon those who depend on him. He does have questions though. Was his nephew executed for some sort of military crime? And if he was, who engineered his death? And, did his brother Lionel really marry and have a child who could be a new heir?

As Mary and Sherlock investigate Gabriel's death, they discover all sorts of questionable things from missing records to unexplained transfers. As they dig deeper it becomes clear that someone engineered young Gabriel's death. And, after a hunting accident that could have killed Marsh, it is clear that the manipulator isn't finished with his crimes.

This story ranges from Justice Hall to London to Paris and to a small town outside of Toronto as Mary and Sherlock investigate this complex conspiracy. The setting and time period are so well drawn that they feel real. The aristocratic lifestyle of Justice Hall is already showing some cracks as the results of World War I and the loss of so many young men are making for great changes in the culture.

The descriptions were so detailed both for Justice Hall and for Ali's home. The characters were complex. Although we don't ever meet Gabriel we get to know him through the memories of those who did know him and through his diaries and letters. There are many secrets and startling revelations in this story which adds to the excitement and to the mystery. It was a compelling story both as a mystery and as a window into a time long gone.

Favorite Quote:
Five years or fifty, when people have sweated, suffered, and shed blood together, there can be no hesitation: If one calls, the other responds. We had shared salt and bread, those staples of Bedu life; now it appeared that we were about to share our combined strength. My blood family had been dead for nine years; however, in the interim I had acquired a most singular pair of brothers.
I bought and read this one before I started blogging. I am rereading it now. You can buy your copy here.

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