Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review of Garment of Shadows

Book #47.Garment of Shadows, by Laurie R. King  Unabridged audio.

I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, and of all of the modern expansions of the Holmesian universe, the Mary Russell series is my favorite. I enjoy how the main characters have developed throughout the series, and although a few books have not been as strong as others, the books are regularly quite good. And the latest is among the stronger books in the series.

The opening scenes of the book concerned me, as the novel begins with Mary recovering from amnesia. This is just a plot point I’m getting tired of. Fortunately, Russell’s memory starts to return shortly thereafter, and this plot element does not become the tired trope that it could be. The slow memory recovery scenes allow for King to revisit the basics of the Holmes – Russell relationship.

Mary Russell’s opportunity to appear on film (which occurred in the last book, The Pirate King, reviewed here) separates her from Holmes. This leads to her disappearing from the film shoot and failing to meet Holmes at a pre-arranged rendezvous. This leads the great detective across the Middle East and North Africa to search for his wife. Along the way, they contact their old friends Ali and Mahmoud Hazr (from prior novels O Jerusalem & Justice Hall).

The period details are wonderful in all the books in these series. The backdrop of this novel includes the growing war in 1924 between France, Spain, and the Rif Revolt led by Emir Abd el-Krim. This is a period of time and a place in the world that I know very little about, so Russell’s ability to bring the setting to life is a strength of the story.

At this point in the series, King has to balance characterization and plot. And when Sherlock Holmes is a character in your novel, the mystery plot has to be compelling. In this one, the political intricacies add a level of complexity for the characters to navigate. And once the amnesia plot moved into the background, I foud teh novel to be an entertaining read.

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