Winner of the Nero Wolfe Award
It is 1921 and Mary Russell - Sherlock Holmes's brilliant apprentice, now an Oxford graduate with a degree in theology - is on the verge of acquiring a sizable inheritance. Independent at last, with a passion for divinity and detective work, her most baffling mystery may now involve Holmes and the burgeoning of a deeper affection between herself and the retired detective. Russell's attentions turn to the New Temple of God and its leader, Margery Childe, a charismatic suffragette and a mystic, whose draw on the young theology scholar is irresistible. But when four bluestockings from the Temple turn up dead shortly after changing their wills, could sins of a capital nature be afoot? Holmes and Russell investigate, as their partnership takes a surprising turn.
©1995 Laurie R. King (P)2008 Recorded Books
If you liked the first one, you may like this one. It's more ... um ... intellectual? There's a lot of theological debate about women, which I really enjoyed but I can also see why some people would find it tedious. I thought it was fun and interesting, though it caused the plot to drag a bit. But I think I will listen to this again. There was a lot I think I might have missed the first time.
As with the first book, I can especially envision Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. Which is ironic as that movie was made after the book was written. Either way, I think she captures the essence of SH.
No. The first half is slow and I found I needed to put it down occasionally.
Spoiler alert. The "romance" between the heroine and SH is ridiculous, IMO. He's what, 40 years her senior? I feel like maybe the author confused herself with her character.
I am quite a few years behind in this series, and this is my 2nd Laurie R. King in the Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell books. Again, as with the first, I did not guess the identity of the criminal before the end, which makes this a good book. You can follow the plot and all the evidence clearly as the book progressed.
Poor Mary Russell: people have it out for her wardrobe. Last book an entire day's shopping fell victim, this one: New clothes on the first wearing and - I could almost hear Amelia Peabody Emerson (Elizabeth Peters' Egyptologist adventuress) shouting at her Emerson "Another shirt ruined!" through Mary's mind as she faced her attacker.
'A Monstrous Regiment of Women' is the second novel in Laurie R. King's 'Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes' series. I have very mixed feelings regarding this book. Right until the end this was going to go on my favorites shelf and could only receive a 5 star rating but there is a twist at the end that has left me disappointed and uncomfortable for the future of the series. I'm still coming to terms with it. I waited to write my review because of these feelings. I did not want to unfairly overshadow the rest of what is otherwise a fantastic book.
It is 1921 in Oxford and London. Mary Russell has graduated and is about to debut her first Academic Article that is not attached to being a student. She is turning 21 which allows her to throw out her distasteful, money grubbing Aunt whom has held the purse strings to her inheritance. Ms. Russell is going through many transitions as a student to academic, child of controlled means to an heiress, girl to woman, and the strange tension between Sherlock Holmes and herself - she is no longer an apprentice and can she be trusted to handle a case on her own?
Mary finds herself in London waiting to come into her inheritance and runs into a friend, Veronica, from her schooling in Oxford. Veronica, or Ronny, pulls her into her life. Ronny is engaged but is breaking the engagement because her young man came home from the war broken with drug addictions she has not been able to pull him away from. The book delves deeply into the effects on society, gender roles, and personal self-worth World War I had on its survivors. Holmes is brought into to help Ronny's young man but that is not the only mystery in London.
Ronny is deeply involved in The Temple and a charismatic woman named Margaret. Margaret is rallying women who previously were nurses and running the country in the absence of the men sent to war. These women were left without a place at the end of the war. King explores the fact woman were required to vacate the jobs they had to marry, but marry who. They are "surplice women," there are too many women and few men returned. The men that did return came back damaged, and many weren't choosing to marry, preferring to fall into paths of self-destruction. To fill a gap The Temple is giving these young women something to do: teaching women to read and build literacy, providing safety and supplies to battered women and their families, providing medical care, and working to increase women's rights now that the vote has passed. The problem is when you have a large group of the disenfranchised that are being directed and utilized by a leader are their actions really charitable or could there be a deeper agenda at work? That is Mary's case.
The book is extremely well researched and written. It addresses the issues that left England ravaged after World War I head on. She also evokes strong emotion on behalf of the characters and the situation. I learned a lot regarding the time period and was sucked into the period concepts of class structure, feminism, gender roles, addiction, PTSD, human nature, etc. I believe King did a remarkable job exploring these subjects without being overly biased.
The situation that left me upset deals with how Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell develop their friendship/relationship as equal adults opposed to an apprentice mentor relationship. To say anything else would be an extravagant spoiler. I do recommend this book despite my issues with the ending, especially to anyone who enjoys mystery's, well researched historical fiction, and sociological studies.
Once again, listening to a story I've read multiple times gives me a new perspective on a story I know very well. There's a lot of academia in this one and yet listening to it makes it much more interesting.
The ending! Without a doubt! It's one of the best parts of the series.
Sterlin has given both Russell and Holmes perfect voices as well as very other people they meet along the way. Her emotional reading of one particular situation Russell finds herself in touches me every time. It's as if I'm experiencing it for the first time.
Yes. There was no way I could but I had it playing every moment I could.
Whether this is your first time experiencing the series or you've read it basically once a year for a decade, this is an audiobook you'll enjoy!
This story draws you in and then turns in unexpected twists of plot. King lets you get to know and love her characters - even the quirky Holmes.
The story line meanders through subjects and character development that are not grounded in the plot. Then there seems to be a realization the story has to wrap up so a bunch of good writing is jammed together at the end. After Beekeeper's Apprentice this just did not measure up.
The performance was also off par, there were only three'ish voices for all the characters.
I really enjoyed King's first book in the Mary Russell series so i was very excited to listen to this story. *possible spoiler* I have to say the Mary/Holmes romance really grossed me out. Not because of the age difference but i never felt like they matched romantically. I loved Mary as a strong independent woman in a time where women were not historically well respected as serious thinkers. I really liked the feminist message but felt that was the main focus of the book. The mystery took a distant third seat to the feminist and then religious overtones. Hopefully the series has more thrilling mysteries but I would still highly recommend this to Holmes fans.
Long term book junkie only recently addicted to audio books. Now my iPod and I are inseparable.
"A Monstrous Regiment Of Woman" is well written, skillfully narrated, filled with memorable characters, and spiced with discussions of challenging ideas on religion and on the role of women.
In the first book, "The Beekeeper's Apprentice", Mary Russell was an "apprentice" to the Master Craftsman of detection, Sherlock Holmes. She was as young and as impressionable as she was passionate and talented.
In "A Monstrous Regiment Of Women" she comes into her majority in every way. She inherits her fortune, establishes her own household, prepares prestigious academic papers and gets her own "case" to pursue.
Holmes plays an important role in the book, Russell's relationship to him defines a great deal about her, but it Russell who is central. Her mind, her passions, her religious views, shape the events in this story and give it meaning.
One of the strengths of "A Monstrous Regiment Of Women" is how embedded it is in the period without being buried in historical detail. The book opens at Christmas 1920, when men, many of them damaged, had returned from the Great War to a land that was not "fit for heroes", when woman were being displaced from the jobs they performed while the men were at war and when the "doomed generation" haunted by death, and stalked by mental instability, sought relief in through sex and drugs and jazz music. The book captures the restless, fragmented spirit of the time beautifully by focusing on events around Margery Childe, a charismatic "Minister" who uses the bible to preach love and demonstrate the value of women while promoting pragmatic philanthropy. This opens up discussions on poverty, social inequity, misogyny, theology and mysticism.
I was fascinated by the effect that Childe had on Russell. Russel is a theological scholar, passionately devoted to studying the Jewish and Christian religious texts to learn their history and unravel the meaning their writers intended to convey. Childe is aware only of the St Jame's version of the Bible. She reads it to understand what God intends for the world. Russel's understanding of the text is superior to Childe's in every way except that Childe has the gift of deep, all-absorbing belief. Russell is suspicious of Childe. She is reluctant to accept that what she is seeing is a woman channeling God's grace. It is easier for her to believe that she is seeing a woman seeking power and perhaps wealth. Unfortunately for Russell she is too honest and her mind is too subtle to stop there. She has to confront the contrast between strength of Childe's belief and the depth of her own knowledge and wonder which of them is the poorer.
Childe's "sermons" are wonderful. Although I learned nothing new about the scriptures, I could feel the tug of her passion, the undertow of her belief. I understood the appeal of surrendering myself to it rather than swimming against that tide. That Russell did not surrender tells me a great deal about her.
One of the most memorable things about the book was the misogynistic quotes that open each chapter. King doesn't comment on them. She doesn't have to. Each one is breathtakingly appalling in its bigotry and anger. That these quotes come from educated men who were leaders in their time is astonishing. I have become so used to the aspiration on gender equality, no matter how seldom it is achieved, that I had allowed myself to forget the centuries of male thought and teaching that declared women to be less than fully human.
The quotes took the violence against the women in the book, especially Childe and Russell, and defined it not as some extraordinary melodramatic device but as part of the day to day world, an interpretation that is much more chilling.
I continued to enjoy the contrapuntal nature of the relationship between Russell and Holmes. She is a child of the twentieth century, a woman in a society where the old certainties on gender are starting to erode, a jew studying chemistry and theology with the same intellectual curiosity. He was raised to be a Victorian Gentleman, with all the advantages of gender and class on his side, has almost retreated from public life, has a passion for science but has no noticeable inclination towards theism. What binds them together is that they both see the world in a fundamentally analytical way, that allows them a clear view of the people around them while placing them at a distance from them. They both carry scars and guilt and both choose to retain their individuality even at the cost of living outside the bounds of respectability.
I'm hooked on this series now that it is clear that Russell is not the new Watson. I'm looking forward to the rest of the books.
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