Mary and Holmes continue to be a great pair, and I find their cerebral marriage a compelling one, though I am beginning to get a bit annoyed with King for discounting Watson so much. Here, we meet an old friend from the first book, the archaeologist Dorothy Ruskin, who shows up in Sussex for a visit, and leaves Mary and Holmes with a strange parchment, which appears to have been written by Mary of Magdalene, and if verified, would strongly suggest she was one of Jesus’s apostles. Soon after, Dorothy Ruskin is hit by a car and killed, and the Holmes cottage burglarized and turned upside down, the burglars obviously searching for something.
The death of an eccentric old woman, and one that seems to be an accident, no less, is not high up on Scotland Yard’s priority list, so Mary and Holmes head to London, roping Lestrade Jr. and Mycroft in to their informal investigation.
I was enjoying this book quite a bit until about 2/3 of the way through, when it became clear that SPOILERS Mary had been rather wasting her time in investigating Colonel Edwards, and Holmes (whose investigation of Dorothy Ruskin’s sister mostly takes place “off screen”) has the profitable end of the investigation, which we don’t get to see. It was a puzzling choice, I thought, to have the Mary letter and Edwards both be red herrings, and to have Mary (our POV and protagonist) fixate on them both, only to have the solution lie elsewhere.
In the author’s notes, King mentions that it’s not a pointless red herring, as through Edwards we see what kind of misogynistic response might lie ahead if she were to make the Magdalene letter public, but it left me feeling rather unsatisfied at the conclusion. Especially since Holmes doesn’t really get his woman, either. There is a lack of evidence condemning the obviously guilty sister and her grandson, and Holmes, too, is left with little resolution, as they appear to have gotten away with it. This is partially mitigated by the end, when they discover another letter hidden in the box Dorothy Ruskin left them, but the motive being simple greed leaves everyone involved (including me) feeling sort of deflated END SPOILERS.
Nevertheless, this was still an enjoyable, quick read, clocking in at only 275 pages. Mary’s perspective on history, mixed with her interest in theology and detection, continues to make it worthwhile to read these books.
[3.5 stars, rounded up]