Really not sure why I waited three years in between reading books one and two. Especially since I’ve been on a Sherlock Holmes kick since January 2017 (still going strong!). And especially since MsWas was kind enough to send me books two, three, and four in the CBR Book Exchange that year. They’ve just been sitting here waiting for me!
I think I kind of forgot why I liked the first book so much after I read it, and it wasn’t the mystery, or even the appearance of Holmes in a different context. I just really like Laurie King’s style. When I stop and think about it, I still feel weird on a theoretical level about a young girl shoehorning herself in to the Holmes canon, and especially SPOILERS marrying the fellow herself at the end, despite a huge age difference END SPOILERS. But when I’m actually reading it . . . it works anyway, for me at least. In the moment, I am captivated by Mary’s inner self, and watching her navigate the world. I find it stimulating to watch such a well-educated, clever woman do her thing. I also think King continues to walk a very fine line, re: her relationship to Holmes. He was her mentor and she respects him, but more than anything, their relationship is one of intellectual equals, a thing that is rare to non-existent for both of them before meeting one another.
This is also historical fiction in disguise. There is a wealth of historical detail and context surrounding all the characters in this book as they go about their plots. King paints a vivid picture of post WWI life in London, for both men and women. The mystery itself (women involved in a feminist spiritual society keep dying) is interesting enough, but not something to get very excited about, although I did like the various and sundry historical misogynies that preceded each chapter (i.e. the titular “monstrous regiment of women” that acts as the book’s epigraph; it’s quoted from a 1588 by Scottish Protestant reformer John Knox).
I plan to read the next two books by the end of the year.
CBR Bingo: Birthday!