Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King


First Line: I sat back in my chair, jabbed the cap onto my pen, threw it into the drawer, and abandoned myself to the flood of satisfaction, relief, and anticipation that was let loose by that simple action.

Mary Russell has been keeping her nose to the Oxford grindstone, putting the finishing touches on an essay while her fellow students have been celebrating Christmas break. She needs a break, too, so she dons a disguise and heads to London. While there, she meets an old college friend who introduces her to Margery Childe, charismatic leader of the New Temple of God.

Part suffragette, part mystic, Childe is an electrifying speaker who is working diligently to improve the lives of poor women in London. Mary can't help noticing, however, that Childe lives very well for a woman of God from a humble background. Another thing that falls under her observant eye is the fact that life has become dangerous for the wealthy women working with Margery Childe. This calls for an investigation, especially since Mary is now part of the "inner circle," and about to come into her own considerable inheritance.

My infatuation with Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes continues in this second book in Laurie R. King's series. First of all, A Monstrous Regiment of Women is a marvelous title that sticks in the mind like a burr. The title comes from Bible thumper John Knox, the equal opportunity hatemonger. (From what I've read, I doubt the man ever cracked a smile.) Knox was notorious for his misogyny, and King has rounded up quite a collection of quotes from Knox and other men with similar beliefs to head each chapter in the book. It wasn't unusual for me to read the quote at the beginning of a chapter and have some unladylike response to it before diving headfirst back into the story. Furthermore, the quotes aren't there just for decoration or to cause blood pressure spikes-- they follow the narrative of the story, and I soon became quite eager to see what the next quote would be.

Mary is now a young woman who's about to come into a very large sum of money, and she struggles a bit with the burden of responsibility this places upon her. She also has a newborn sense of freedom and begins to think about the relationship she has with Holmes. This book (as well as the first one, The Beekeeper's Apprentice) is so much more than a recitation of facts about cases the two detectives have solved, and this is all due to Mary's narration. She focuses on personal matters and on the people involved, so readers can really get a sense of whom the characters are and why they are involved.  

Mary has the lion's share of the scenes in this book, but Holmes' presence is felt throughout. Never once did I forget that this man is "the world's greatest detective," but it is refreshing to see him in a totally different light. Mary is his equal in mind and in heart, and I love watching the relationship between these two growing into something very, very special.

Just in case you get the impression that A Monstrous Regiment of Women is a mere character study, think again. The case is an intriguing one that is difficult to sort out, and Mary is in very real danger towards the end. In fact, I think I was reading so fast that my eyeballs almost caught fire.

I love the world that Laurie R. King has created. I now have all the books, and I fully intend to savor each and every one. If you have yet to sample this series, you have a wonderful treat in store for you. In order to achieve the greatest amount of enjoyment, I would suggest that you read the books in order. The way the relationship between Holmes and Mary Russell unfolds is a delight.

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King
ISBN: 9780312427375
Picador © 2007 (Original publishing date 1995)
Paperback, 304 pages

Historical Mystery, #2 Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery
Rating: A
Source: Paperback Swap

10 comments:

  1. Cathy - Oooh, another release in this series. Must admit the news about this one just totally got past me *embarrassed.* Thanks for the 'wake-up call.'

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    1. With a title like that, how could you miss it, Margot?? *darfc*

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  2. The Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie King is so good. I started with The Beekeeper and worked myself up to this one. Need to continue the series. I really love it. Sherlock Holmes and....

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    1. Now that I've got all the books, my problem is to refrain from reading them one right after the other. I'm glad to hear that you enjoy this series, too.

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  3. I read that a few years ago and liked it a lot and read The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Those are the two I read in the series.

    It's excellent, however, I just have the TBR Alps piles here, TBR lists, books flying in here faster than the speed of light and I keep trying new authors, countries, etc.

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    1. You're singing to the choir, Kathy! LOL

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  4. I think I have one or two of the last books to look forward to. I do like the world King creates, as you said above. King is such a knowledgeable woman herself. I always learn something. Sometimes an author takes off on a bit of tangent, and I think King does that in one of the last books I read, which is why I've let some time elapse between books.

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    1. I had that happen with a British police procedural series, although the book I read felt as if the author had thrown everything in it but the kitchen sink. I've been wary of picking up the next book ever since. I should just bite the bullet and do it. Kill or cure!

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  5. As Teresa says, some of the later books in this series have tedious parts but King is so clever, like with the misogynistic quotations, that she always keeps me reading. These early ones are a delight.

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    1. Who knows? I may not even find those parts tedious. ;-)

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