Garment of Shadows (2012) is the 12th novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell, aka Mrs Sherlock Holmes. As with most of these novels, the actions takes place immediately after the previous novel (the exception was the short story Beekeeping for Beginners, which is the first novel The Beekeeper’s Apprentice story from the perspective of Sherlock Holmes).
Mary continues to write her memoirs looking back on her life with Holmes. She is a fascinating character, his intellectual equal and charming partner. Holmes recognised her talents and her character and encourages her personal growth. They truly complete each other and provide wonderful witty repartee. Laurie King does an extraordinary job of giving us these two characters, with wonderful atmospheric prose, superbly researched historical and geographical detail and a fast paced story.
The opening scene in Morocco has Mary trying to solve the mystery of who she is, having awoken with blood and bandages, amnesia and a sense of impending doom. Meanwhile Holmes begins the hunt for her while also uncovering a larger threat of war between France, Spain and the Rif Rebellion (1920s)(with British allies). We meet again the brothers Ali and Mahmond Hazrs (from O Jerusalem and Justice Hall) in a superbly written, intense mystery. The continued development of so many characters that the reader cares about coupled with the political intrigue at an exotic location creates another wonderful installment in this series.
The personal relationship revealed is also acute; they both realise what life might be like without the other. The beloved relationship has subtle clues and wonderful turns of phrase. I loved the scene when Holmes finds Mary but she doesn’t know who he is. I also drank a lot of mint tea and submerged myself in the warm atmosphere of this book.
“My wife walked away from all her possessions, and none of the company was concerned?…And yet Sherlock Holmes worried.…he would give Russell until morning, before he turned the town upside down.”
“If Gertrude Bell can sit down with the Arabs in Mesopotamia, why not Russell in the Rif?”
“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 the library (Libraries – these I remembered) anticipating the treasures within.”
“He smiled, and for the first time I knew his face. Not his history or who he was to me – but that he was part of me, I know longer doubted. I came near to weeping, at the relief of having a companion in this lost world.”
“My dear Russell, never have I approached you without a qualm.” “Extraordinary how it can hurt to laugh, yet also heal.”
“The library … was silent. It smelt of books and ink. I felt my muscles relax, as if the odour had the power to transport me to my far away home.”
“I am an omnivorous reader with a retentive memory for trifles.” Sherlock Holmes
“There is no scent so pleasant to my nostrils as that faint, subtle reek which comes from an ancient book.” Arthur Conan Doyle