23 March 2013
The Pirate King (Mary Russell #11)
In England's budding silent-film industry, megalomaniac Randolph Fflytte is king. At the request of Scotland Yard, Mary Russell is dispatched to investigate rumors of criminal activities. At Lisbon rehearsals for "Pirate King", based on Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance", thirteen blond-haired, blue-eyed actresses meet the real buccaneers Fflytte has recruited to provide authenticity. But when the crew embarks for Morocco and the actual filming, troubles escalate.
Continuing in my Mary Russell run, I picked up The Pirate King from the library. Here, Mary grouchily poses as secretary/administrator/general fixer for the suspicious motion picture production of an extremely reductive adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance. It is easier to take the job - even if that means she has to deal with Mycroft - than refuse. So she finds herself soothing ruffled feathers, finding costumes, babysitting rehearsals, and snooping through the cast and crew hotel rooms. The possibly-deranged producer/director has hooked up with Fernando Pessoa - a real-life writer with some sort of dissociative personality disorder - who finds "real" pirates to play the pirate crew and an actual derelict sailing ship for the production. And that isn't even the worst part.
Well, the worst part for me was that Mary frequently sounded a bit whiney to my ear. Granted, she's got some ground - getting dragged around the world, saving her husband from some nut in India-Pakistan, reclaiming part of her past in San Francisco, then entering into a lethal cat-and-mouse game with someone who fancied himself a spymaster to rival Mycroft. All at the cost of her own academic work. But she doesn't seem to offer much resistance to the request that she go undercover - she doesn't want to be at the house in Surrey if Mycroft is there. And so she whinges for about 100 pages. Until Sherlock shows up, then things get interesting again. Their relationship has always been the best part of the series for me, how they push and pull against each other with their considerable intellects and will. I think I will take a pause before I read Garment of Shadows.