Wednesday, July 01, 2009
A Letter of Mary
What would you do if you received a letter, written by Mary Magdalene. What if the woman that gave you the letter was a noted expert on Jerusalem and later was mysteriously killed? Those are only a couple of the questions Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes have to try and answer in Laurie R. King's A Letter of Mary. The third book in King's Russell series begins when Dorothy Ruskin, an archaeologist that Russell and Holmes had met in the Middle East a few years prior, visits them at their home and presents a letter supposedly written by Mary Magdalene. In the letter, Mary writes of being an apostle, news that would shock modern (1923) Anglican England and the world. Ruskin asks Russell and Holmes to investigate the letter and try to determine if it is authentic. Unfortunately, they do not even have time to begin their inquiry, when Ruskin is killed in an automobile accident. With her untimely death, Russell and Holmes set to uncover the truth about her death, enlisting the aid of Detective Lestrade and Sherlock's brother, Mycroft.
The investigation takes them to four different groups of potential murderers with four valid motives. Under disguise and careful observation, Russell and Holmes infiltrate and begin to build their case. And though Russell and Holmes are under no real threat of imminent danger, the mystery unravels at a great pace, never leaving the reader too relaxed. Russell as narrator is quick witted, self-depracating and funny. Her personality resonates throughout the book and her smarts are on par with Holmes's. Being married to Holmes, Russell allows the reader to see Holmes during his downtime and during those moments of self-doubt. All of King's novels are full of insight and maintain an authenticity to them that you don't get in a lot of pastiche.
Did the killers kill for money (greed) or were they out to stop the publication of the potentially shattering letter? This is a story about family, ambition and relationships. Especially relationships between between sisters and husband and wife.