Friday, November 23, 2012

Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King: A review

Morocco, 1924. Control of the country is divided between two European nations - Spain and France. But that control is slipping as a native revolt gains momentum.

It is not only Spain and France that maintain an interest in Morocco. Germany has mining interests there and seeks to promote and protect those interests, and England, (or, at the time, the British Empire) by nefarious means, tries to guide events into pathways that will benefit its own foreign interests. At the center of the British efforts, in Laurie R. King's fictionalized telling of the events, is Mycroft Holmes and, of course, where Mycroft spins and weaves, his younger brother Sherlock lurks in the shadows.

Sherlock Holmes and his young wife Mary Russell were already in the area in a continuation of the action which we saw in the last novel in this series, The Pirate King. They are participating in the filming of a motion picture about - yes - pirates. Sherlock breaks away from the company to pursue his own adventure, while Russell continues playing her part in the filming. Then, one day near the end of filming, Russell walks off into the desert, hand in hand with a strange child. And disappears.

Sherlock and Russell had planned a rendezvous in Fez a few days later. Sherlock waits for her but she doesn't appear. Alarmed, he begins to search for her.

Meanwhile, an injured Russell is lying in an unknown house also in Fez, although she doesn't know where she is. In fact, she doesn't know who she is. A head injury has induced amnesia, but her instincts are intact, and when French "soldiers" come looking for her, her instinct tells her to escape and, incredibly, she does, wandering into the city.

As she wanders, she gathers information, and as Sherlock looks for her, he, the ultimate gatherer of facts, also receives a tangled web of information. At first, all those bits and pieces seem disjointed and unrelated, but this is, at base, a Sherlock Holmes mystery and so everything connects in the end.

Along the way, we once again meet up with Mahmoud and Ali, brothers whom Holmes and Russell had met and bonded with during a previous adventure in Palestine, and, of course, they turn out to be at the very center of the unfolding events. It seems touch and go as to whether the four friends, not to mention that strange child with whom Russell had disappeared into the desert, will survive the brutal Moroccan political climate of 1924. But, since this is Sherlock Holmes, we have a sneaking suspicion that they will, in spite of all odds.

Laurie King's pastiche series based on the great Arthur Conan Doyle's consulting detective has been one of my guilty reading pleasures for years now. Sherlock Holmes was my first literary crush when I was twelve years old. All these years later, he still has the power to fascinate me. King, I feel, has caught the essence of his personality, even though she's given the confirmed bachelor a young wife, his former Beekeeper's Apprentice. Mary Russell is the focus of these stories and the narrator of her share of the tales. (Sherlock's part is told in third person.) It is from Russell's "notes" that Laurie King constructs her stories, of which Garment of Shadows is another winner.

      

2 comments:

  1. Interesting - I have never heard ot this author. HOpe you are having a good week.

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    1. I'm having an excellent week, thank you, Carole. King's series is pretty popular in this country. She sometimes makes the best-seller list and has won several prizes in the mystery and suspense genre. I'm not sure how widely she's known in the rest of the world though. Maybe she hasn't made it to New Zealand yet!

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