I know I have mentioned before how much I like Mary Russell, Laurie King's sleuthing heroine, who is married to an older Sherlock Holmes. There may be a difference in ages, but this is a pairing of minds and dispositions that works well. The two are suited for each other and with each new installment I learn just a little more about Mary and her history with Holmes. I'm slowly working my way through the series with the intention of reading the whole run (there are now thirteen books) and am now reading book five, O Jerusalem. Considering the class I am currently taking, contemporary Israeli Literature, and the fact that often the books are set in Jerusalem, it seems only fitting that I am visiting the city ca. 1919.
This is an interesting story since there are teasers to events that take place in the Holy City in previous books, and now (the last book, The Moor, is set in 1923) Ms. King, the editor of Mary Russell's manuscripts, is finally publishing the memoirs. Apparently she only just received the missing pages--postmarked with a Slovenian stamp--but this part of Mary's story fits in more naturally with the next book to come. While Mary and Holmes have been happily married, the story goes back to her days as a mere apprentice.
It's interesting, too, to read about Palestine just after the war. It's a time of unrest since only recently have the Turks lost control of the land yet it is an uneasy peace with many difficulties concerning boundaries and with Christian, Jewish and Muslim claims to 'ownership'. It seems only natural that Mary would travel to the Holy Land, as she is a student of theology, speaks fluent Hebrew and is Jewish. It is a series of murders that bring the pair to Palestine, and they must covertly enter the country, but it's as Arabs that they must pass and Mary is getting an education in speaking Arabic. She is up for the challenge, which is just one reason I like her so much.
Mary must dress as a young Arab boy as the group crosses the desert on foot with Jerusalem as their destination. Their Arab guides are none too pleased leading a female, but Mary is nothing if not tenacious. She does have hidden talents, however, which means a certain begrudging respect is given. My teaser is a bit more description about Mary and her abilities:
"Under the tutelage of Holmes and a number of others, over the last four years I had accumulated a variety of odd abilities. I could pick a lock laboriously, drive a horse or a motorcar without coming to grief, dress up in a costume as a sort of amateur-dramatics-in-earnest, and fling a fully grown man (an unprepared and untrained man) to the ground. My only two real gifts, gifts I was born with, were an ear for languages and a hand for throwing. Be it a rock or a pointed object, my left hand had a skill for accuracy that I could in all honesty take no credit for, although I had on occasion found it useful."
She does indeed know how to throw a man (as one of the guides discovers . . .) and can throw a knife and hit her mark time after time almost on demand.
This is a nicely twisty turny story that calls for attention to keep all the details straight. It's a spy-ish sort of story, too. They are there at the behest of Holmes's brother Mycroft, though the 'spymaster' in Palestine with whom they are meeting up has no qualms about letting both know they are expendable. I'm quite curious to see where the pair are headed and what difficulties they are encounter on their way there!
I'll tell you more when I finish. Until then, if you want to catch up on the series, I've written about the other books, too: The Beekeeper's Apprentice, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, A Letter of Mary, and The Moor. I'd say that guessing what the make up of my own personal book collection is, per capita I own more mysteries than anything else and always feel overwhelmed by choice (which is not a bad thing, mind you). I want to keep the momentum going with this series and already have the next book in the queue!