After enjoying The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, by Laurie R. King, I started collecting more books from the series. Unfortunately I had to wait till the end of last year to find a copy of the second book in the series: A Monstrous Regiment of Women, but as you can see I didn’t wait long to read it!
It is 1920 and Sherlock Holmes’ brilliant, young apprentice Mary Russell is now a grown woman, an Oxford graduate and on the cusp of gaining her longed for independence along with her large family inheritance. With this new found freedom and her passion for divinity, Mary finds herself drawn to the New Temple in God and its charismatic leader Margery Childe, a self-proclaimed suffragette and mystic. However when a prominent bluestocking from Childe’s most inner-circle at the Temple is found dead, it seems Mary has stumbled upon another baffling and dangerous mystery to solve.
When we first met Mary Russell, that sunny day in 1915, she was a lonely 15-year-old orphan. Now Mary has bloomed, under Holmes’ tutelage, into a strong, brave, intelligent woman, who on reaching her majority is able to rid herself of her unpleasant aunt and so step out into the world on her own for the first time. While in the first book I found the age gap between Mary and Holmes a little creepy, now Mary is all grown up it is even easier to see how well they suit each other and this book sees the burgeoning of a deeper affection between them.
This new mystery also sees Mary stepping up and taking the lead, with Holmes taking a back seat; but you know he always has her back. As Mary delves deeper, it is revealed that three more women have mysteriously died and what makes it even more suspicious is how each victim had just changed their wills to benefit the Temple. Putting herself in extreme danger, Mary decides to use her own new wealth as bait to whoever it is committing these terrible crimes. What ensures is another thrilling mystery full of secrets, danger and disguises, with the added glitz, glam, drugs and freedom that came in the age between the wars.
And then of course you have Sherlock Holmes. While Holmes isn’t the main protagonist of this book, I do think King has continued to draw him well – he is older, in a new situation and solving new crimes, but I always felt what King had him do and say was believable and true to Doyle’s original. I think I will always prefer Doyle’s classic stories, however I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to see Holmes, even if in a smaller role, in another mystery through this book and I look forward to more.
In conclusion, I thought A Monstrous Regiment of Women was another nostalgic and thrilling mystery. I look forward to reading more from this series – I already have the next book, A Letter of Mary. Good read.
Have you read this? Or any of the other Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books?