Dreaming Spires

IMG_1841
Oxford and Japan
Russell complements Sherlock-
The game is a foot!

Title: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King
Publisher: Bantam Press, Random House
352 pp
Genre: mystery, Sherlock Holmes, adventure, series, crime, historical thriller
4.5 Stars ****
Author:
Laurie R King is a best selling author of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, SanFran Homicide Inspector Kate Martinelli series, as well as stand alone suspense novels. She has been nominated for and won many awards for her writing, (including a Nero for A Monstrous Regiment of Women, (Russell/Sherlock) and a MacCavity for Touchstone, one of my favourite mysteries). The first Russell/Sherlock is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994). But don’t miss Beekeeping for Beginners (2011), a novella written from Sherlock’s perspective. King has also written a number of short stories, which are all worth collecting. She is co-editor with Leslie Klinger (master authority on Sherlock!) of A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes.
Visit her website at http://laurierking.com: enjoy her blog posts and facebook!
Story line:
This is the 14th Mary Russell (aka Mrs Sherlock Holmes) mystery, narrated again by Mary as an older woman recalling her adventures with Sherlock. As such they are very much historical novels, period pieces with intriguing mysteries. This book takes place after The Game and before Locked Rooms, in 1924 and 1925 (although 4 other novels are also before the ending). Mary is a strong female protagonist, intellectually formidable, equal with Holmes but with a subtle personal relationship that I find perceptive. She is one of my favourite bluestockings. This story also introduces Haruki Sato, a deceptive, memorable character, a respected shinobi. I would love to meet her again.
Part of this story is a flashback to their voyage to Japan aboard the Thomas Carlyle where Holmes spies a blackmailer /English clubman, whom he would like nothing more than to apprehend. There are memorable descriptions of this voyage and their exposure to the customs and traditions of Japan. A variety of mysteries and tests complete that adventure, but then Ms Sato appears in Oxford nearly a year later. We are back in The Bodleian to recover and replace forgeries of an ancient Japanese haiku poet Matsuo Basho.
It is an interesting puzzle, a fascinating travelogue, with intriguing layered characters, and detailed backgrounds, all making for a very satisfying read. I will no doubt buy a hard copy, and continue to recommend her earlier novels. You can read this independent of the others but why? Start with the first: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and enjoy the character development and progression (and adventures!) They often follow directly on from the previous book.
Read on:
If you like Sherlock Holmes you will enjoy this series. Make note of the authors with membership in The Irregulars, or books sanctioned by the Conan Doyle Estate. Read the short stories by various authors in A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes.
Caleb Carr The Italian Secretary
Alan Bradley Flavia DeLuce novels
Leslie Klinger The Annotated Sherlock Holmes
Larry Millett Sherlock Holmes and the Red demon, the ice palace, the rune stones, the secret alliance (for Sherlock in Minnesota)
Anthony Horowitz The House of Silk, Moriarity, and short story The Three Monarchs
Quotes:
That sweet city with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty’s heightening. Mathew Arnold

What is it about Oxford that puts one in a poetical state of mind?
The house was silent, weighty with the comfort of a thousand books.
This was far from the first time I had stood on the terrace with a cup of tea, appreciating not being elsewhere.
(It was just a pub) Heaven lay within, an ancient gathering space that could only be in England, every breath testifying to its centuries of smoke and beer, damp dogs and the sweat of working men.
We watched Bombay recede, then went below to arrange our possessions, and our bribes.
Twenty four and a half days Bombay to Yokohama. Five hundred eighty six hours pressed about by humanity, one hundred eighty hours spent sweating amongst the bedsheets; eighty-four hours in the dining room; nineteen and a half hours of language tutorials with Miss Sato; ten hours reading Shakespeare aloud with an extremely mixed group of amateurs; and seventeen hour- long afternoon salons on topics from tea to theatre; … Some forty hours spent pacing the decks to keep from leaping off them, twenty or so hours on the cycling and rowing machines…
The face he lifted to me held that bright optimism I have learned to dread.
Allowing the world to think I am a character in some stories is the only way to obtain a degree of freedom.
We slept in hard cotton mattresses laid on the floors, our heads perched on pillows stuffed, apparently, with gravel.

Read as an ARC from NetGalley

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