Sunday, September 15, 2019

Book Review: O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King

O Jerusalem
Author: Laurie R. King
Series: Mary Russell Novels
Publication: Bantam; First Edition edition (June 1, 1999)

Description: At the close of the year 1918, forced to flee England's green and pleasant land, Russell and Holmes enter British-occupied Palestine under the auspices of Holmes' enigmatic brother, Mycroft.

"Gentlemen, we are at your service." Thus Holmes greets the two travel-grimed Arab figures who receive them in the orange groves fringing the Holy Land. Whatever role could the volatile Ali and the taciturn Mahmoud play in Mycroft's design for this land the British so recently wrested from the Turks? After passing a series of tests, Holmes and Russell learn their guides are engaged in a mission for His Majesty's Government, and disguise themselves as Bedouins--Russell as the beardless youth "Amir"--to join them in a stealthy reconnaissance through the dusty countryside.

A recent rash of murders seems unrelated to the growing tensions between Jew, Moslem, and Christian, yet Holmes is adamant that he must reconstruct the most recent one in the desert gully where it occurred. His singular findings will lead him and Russell through labyrinthine bazaars, verminous inns, cliff-hung monasteries--and into mortal danger. When her mentor's inquiries jeopardize his life, Russell fearlessly wields a pistol and even assays the arts of seduction to save him. Bruised and bloodied, the pair ascend to the jewellike city of Jerusalem, where they will at last meet their adversary, whose lust for savagery and power could reduce the city's most ancient and sacred place to rubble and ignite this tinderbox of a land....

Classically Holmesian yet enchantingly fresh, sinuously plotted, with colorful characters and a dazzling historic ambiance, O Jerusalem sweeps readers ever onward in the thrill of the chase.

My Thoughts: Needing to leave England for a while and accepting a commission from Sherlock's brother Mycroft, Mary and Sherlock find themselves in Palestine and in the middle of a plot to destabilize an already troubled area in 1919 when Allenby is trying to forge some sort of peace and the Turks aren't quite ready to give up the area.

Mary dons the disguise of an Arab boy named Amir and has a rapid course in Arabic as they join forces with Mahmoud and Ali who are agents for Mycroft and who aren't eager to have two new strangers coming into the area. After a period of testing which tests their stamina and determination and puts a strain on Holmes who is healing from the bomb blast which precipitated their trip to Palestine, Holmes and Mary find themselves trying to find the mastermind who is behind a few murders and a plot to blow up a sacred site in Jerusalem.

The story sees Holmes and Russell traveling through many dusty parts of Palestine including cliff-side monasteries and buried tunnels and aqueducts and tombs. Mary and Sherlock even have a chance to swim in the Dead Sea. Mary is often awestruck seeing the sites she has studied and the places that form an important part of her religion.

I loved the vivid descriptions of the land and people they meet on their journey. The plot was nicely twisty. I liked the growing relationship between Mary and Sherlock as they ease from Mary's apprenticeship to her being a full and equal partner to Holmes.

Favorite Quote:
There are no true mountains in Palestine, not by European standards and certainly not within a day's walk of Jaffa, but I could have sworn that our two guides had imported some for the occasion. We scrambled up and down precipitous if unseen hillsides, obliging me to cling to the pack ropes and let my surefooted animal lead me in the darkness, abandoning all pretense of my being in charge of it. 
I bought and read this one before I began blogging and am rereading it now. You can buy your copy here.

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