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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

A Letter of Mary (The Mary Russell Series, Book 3)

A Letter of Mary - Jenny Sterlin, Laurie R. King

The third book in the Mary Russell series, I really enjoyed A Letter of Mary.  On audio it is excellent and I highly recommend it to those who enjoy listening to their books when it suits.  


A brief summary (which I just copied from BL new book page!):  The quiet in the Holmes household in Sussex is shaken when Dorothy Ruskin, an amateur archaeologist from the Holy Land, appears with an exquisite inlaid box containing a scrap of ancient writing. Miss Ruskin soon dies in a traffic accident that Holmes and Mary prove was murder. But what was the motivation? Was it the little inlaid box holding the manuscript? Or the woman's involvement in the volatile politics of the Holy Land? Or could it have been the manuscript itself - a letter seemingly written by Mary Magdalene that contains a biblical bombshell.


Generally speaking, I avoid books where religion is a theme; rarely do they avoid being preachy.  Even more rare is the book that pulls it off without reducing religion and faith to a simplistic, one dimensional "God will make everything ok" mentality.  But I do really enjoy books that look at religion and faith from an academic, historical or theological perspective.  These type of books, even if you don't agree with everything said, come across more often as well-thought-out and thought-inspiring.   A Letter of Mary does not use religion as a major plot point, but it is a theme, from an academic p.o.v., and it is thought provoking (although probably less so for atheists).


Sherlock Holmes is more "Sherlockian" in this third book than he was in A Monstrous Regiment of Women.  He was also a much bigger presence in this book; I appreciated that; I like Mary, but I'm in this for Sherlock!  Mary Russell seems to have become slightly contrary though.  The first two books had her fighting for her right to take part in investigating cases and to be an equal partner.  But in this third, she resents it; she fights against it adamantly at first.  I'd call it a one-off, but I've started the fourth book The Moor last night, and she starts off even more irritated at being pulled into an investigation.  Perhaps as the series progresses this sudden reluctance will be explained.


I loved the plot of this one; it might be my favorite so far.  Ms. King didn't try to outdo herself with über criminals, or genius masterminds.  The crime is clever, the story is well-plotted and the criminal is cunning, but in the end it's almost as much circumstance as Sherlock/Russell that ties it all up in the end.  I liked it quite a bit as it makes a nice change from the "extraordinary ordinary".


These books have made driving something to look forward to and I'm really anticipating the next errand to run, the next drive-across-town, so I can continue with The Moor.  The game is afoot!  ;)