I rounded out my April reading with Justice Hall by Laurie R. King, the sixth Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, published in 2002. My last read from this series O Jerusalem took me on detour back to a previously untold chapter at the beginning of the series, while this one returned us to the action just after The Moor.
In fact, it is just mere hours after Mary and Holmes have returned home from bleak Dartmoor, when a bloodied but oddly familiar stranger pounds desperately on their front door… it is none other than one of their comrades from the Holy Land. Now shorn of his fabulous beard, colourful robes and curved dagger though, Ali Hazr is gone and instead the very English Alistair Hughenfort collapses over their threshold.
Once he has sufficiently recovered, he begs them to help him talk sense into his cousin Marsh Hughenfort (better known to us as Mahmoud Hazr), who has returned to England on the death of his older brother, to reluctantly take up the mantle of the Duke of Beauville; after the untimely death of the expected heir, Gabriel Hughenfort, during the Great War of 1918.
But it is not until Mary and Holmes arrive at the family seat of Justice Hall – a home of unearthly perfection, set in grounds modelled on Paradise – that they fully understand the irony echoed in the family motto: Righteousness is my strength! Marsh feels dutybound to stay, even though this life is slowly killing him, so they have no choice but to dig into the mystery and scandalous rumours surrounding Gabriel’s death, that have haunted the family ever since, to finally bring some peace of mind back to their old friend.
This involves Holmes heading to London to dig up Gabriel’s war record, while Mary stays at the hall for an ill-fated shooting weekend. It was great to have some time alone with Mary again and to see her taking a lead in this branch of the investigation, too; because as much as I love Holmes these are really Mary’s stories. I also loved the wonderful details of life on a large country estate in the 1920s: an army of servants, long walks, shooting, dressing for dinner, lavish parties, fancy dress and afternoon tea taken in the library.
On top of which we have a missing diary, a purloined bundle of letters, and a trail of ominous clues that add up to create a dastardly good mystery, that will call for Holmes’s cleverest disguises and Mary’s most daring journeys into the unknown; from an English hamlet, to the city of Paris, to the wild prairie of the New World. The trap is set, the game is afoot, but can they solve the case and catch the villain before it is too late?!
Overall, I thought Justice Hall by Laurie R. King was another wonderfully nostalgic murder-mystery and while I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the books this is by far my favourite of the series, so far, because it has just the right amount of everything I love, just when I needed it! I most definitely look forward to reading more from this series – I have the next book, The Game waiting on my TBR shelf. Great read
(I am counting this towards my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2021)
Now I’d love to hear your thoughts: Have you read this? Or any of the other Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books?