Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series has been a favorite of mine since I first discovered it a few years ago. The thing that I have enjoyed most about it is the relationship between young Mary and the great Holmes. I found the growth of the relationship from beekeeper's apprentice to partner and wife to be thoroughly believable and thoroughly entertaining. The problem that I have with the latest installment in the series, Pirate King, is that there simply isn't much of that relationship here.
Early on, Mary is sent away from Sussex and Sherlock on a supposed mission for Inspector Lestrade. She is to be an undercover agent embedded in a company of silent motion picture actors. Lestrade allegedly suspects that something nefarious is going on with the band of thespians. Illegal drugs? Gun running? It's never made quite clear and apparently Lestrade doesn't really know. Nevertheless, Mary is supposed to sort the whole thing out. Mary very soon suspects, however, that it isn't really Lestrade who is sending her on this mission, but her brother-in-law Mycroft who is a high muckety-muck in His Majesty's government. Further, she suspects that Mycroft is simply trying to get her out of Sussex. Why? Well, that, along with several other things about the story, is never really made clear.
Despite her misgivings, Mary takes on the task and finds herself with a theatrical group which will be making a film about a theatrical group that is making a film about "The Pirates of Penzance." Are you confused yet?
Fflyte Films, the producer of the film which is called "Pirate King," prides itself on reality and so hires some actual sailors to appear as the pirates in the film. Except the "sailors" turn out to be actual pirates. And the pirates seem bent on kidnapping the Penzance Major and his thirteen blonde daughters, along with Mary Russell. Ah, well, if you just suspend disbelief and go along for the ride, you'll be much happier.
This is a lark of a book. Nothing serious happens here until the very end and very little even there. Worst of all, there's very little Sherlock. It was a very light, fun read, but I hope this doesn't foretell a new direction for the series. I'm much happier when the story involves both of its main characters.