Book, screen, stage, festival & event reviews.
Review by ScotKris.
In recent years I have, on occasion, been concerned when a number of writers have started consolidating their output by focusing on one series character at the expense of their other work. Looking back over 30 years of a wide variety of crime writing in particular, no matter how much I enjoyed Ruth Rendell’s work for example, I preferred the variation of her standalone novels to the Wexfords. I would not have sought three or four Wexfords in succession.
Laurie R King has, over almost 20 years, produced five police procedurals in the much missed Kate Martinelli series; five varied and intriguing standalone novels, and now, with Garment of Shadows, 12 novels in the Mary Russell series – the series which also features the post-retirement Sherlock Holmes. Recently, King has concentrated on the Russell-Holmes series and Garment of Shadows is the fourth successive novel in four years. I admit I felt a slight trepidation as to whether my attention would hold. I had no qualms that I would enjoy the quality of the writing, more that the story would show signs of the series needing a break. But I needn’t have worried.
After the humorous side-step of 2011’s Pirate King, King returns to a more serious subject matter, taking Russell and Holmes deep into a troubled Morocco and the war between Spain and France over control of the precarious North African country. As with earlier Russell and Holmes novels, King appears to effortlessly interweave her characters with historical events, and a sign of her skill is to have the reader forgetting that this is fiction mingling with real events. Decades have passed since the Rif Revolt, but King brings to life the anguish of a country fighting for its independence almost 100 years ago, without ever making this a history lesson.
The story opens with Mary Russell wakening in a strange bed in a strange room, with no memory of who she is or how she arrived in these circumstances. There is blood on her hands; there are soldiers on her trail; and she has no awareness of Holmes.
Out in the hive-like streets, she discovers herself strangely adept in the skills of the underworld, escaping through alleys and rooftops, picking pockets and locks … Overhead, warplanes pass ominously north …
A fascinating trail ensues as Russell uses her wits in her attempts to find herself, as Holmes attempts to track her down. This is King at her best, showcasing her characters in full swing as individuals before reuniting them and taking the story deep into its main theme. Utterly believable, wildly improbable, totally plausible, Garment of Shadows is a more than worthy addition to this now long-running series, and comes highly recommended.
Garment of Shadows is now available on Amazon. With thanks to the publisher, Allison and Busby for the review copy.