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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February 24 – Random Reader

What are you reading now?

Kingdom of Summer by Gillian Bradshaw – part of a trilogy about Sir Gawain of the Arthurian Legends (the first book is the Hawk of May and the last is In Winter’s Shadow). Bradshaw won awards for her first novel (Hawk of May), and I so loved it, I immediately found the second in the Library.  I had always believed Gawain (or Gwalchunai, his real name) to be Welsh, but come to find he was from the Orkneys, Scotland. He earns Arthur’s trust and friendship in the first novel and defends the kingdom while trying to unite Britain, with the usual characters: Arthur, Lancelot, Merlin, Morgawse etc. This is a brilliant retelling of the Arthur legend, that will appeal to all ages. She wrote this trilogy in the 1980s, but they are being reissued in trade paper. I have discovered a new author and can’t believe the diversity of her writing.

Books On the bedstand:

Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie – I have been charmed by the Roman Medicus and read these as soon as they are published. This is another hilarious look at murder in Roman Britain, a bit further north of Londonium this time, but with an engaging cast of characters. You do need to read these in order, but what a treat.

How Literature saved my life by David Shields – perusing the library shelves this one just lept out at me!

Alys Clare – Out of the Dawn Light – she was touted as being the new Ellis Peters (Cadfael), which I return to and reread, as well as watch on PBS. I love this time period and the writing is fantastic: intricate plot, depth to all characters, well researched medieval history, skillfully written – in another series (Hawkenlye)!

The Book I am waiting for:

Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd. I adore both of their series – both Insp Ian Rutledge and Nurse Bess Crawford. I have not purchased this one because I am in the throes of moving and packing and can’t bear the thought of another book (weight and volume)

The Book I am talking about:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – this was published last year but I can’t stop talking about this. I am writing a long review and ended up re-reading the entire book, enjoying it just as much the second time. This is a superb fantasy novel, not just for YA.  I  cannot wait for the sequel, for a series, for anything else she writes!

The previous book:

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Beekeeping for Beginners – Laurie R King. I introduced one of my bookclubs to the Mary Russell (Mrs Sherlock Holmes) series, and the writing of King. Yes, I have read almost every novel she has written. Full price on Kindle, hard copies when I can find them. This lead to several other books about Holmes and Doyle – surprised by how many writers belong to the Baker Street Irregulars!

Watching on the tele?
As I impatiently await the modern Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch (season 3), I have continued, in order, with re-watching the Big Bang Theory (and am also impatiently awaiting season 6 to be available on DVD). I love Sheldon. I can so relate to these guys.

Listening to?

Japandroids – Celebration Rock. Yeah, this surprised me too, almost as much as the Librarian who gave it to me. It was listed as one of the top five albums of 2012, so I had to try to listen to it. Of the five, only the Dylan will remain with me.

Book Review – Laurie R King

Laurie R King, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series

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.

Book Quotes:

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.”

Book Quotes:

“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