05 February 2013

O Jerusalem (Mary Russell #5)

Summary from Goodreads:
With her bestselling mystery series featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, Laurie R. King has created "lively adventure in the very best of intellectual company," according to The New York Times Book Review. Now the author of The Beekeeper's Apprentice and The Moor--the first writer since Patricia Cornwell to win both the American Edgar and British Creasey Awards for a debut novel (A Grave Talent)--unfolds a hitherto unknown chapter in the history of Russell's apprenticeship to the great detective.

At the close of the year 1918, forced to flee England's green and pleasant land, Russell and Holmes enter British-occupied Palestine under the auspices of Holmes' enigmatic brother, Mycroft.

"Gentlemen, we are at your service." Thus Holmes greets the two travel-grimed Arab figures who receive them in the orange groves fringing the Holy Land. Whatever role could the volatile Ali and the taciturn Mahmoud play in Mycroft's design for this land the British so recently wrested from the Turks? After passing a series of tests, Holmes and Russell learn their guides are engaged in a mission for His Majesty's Government, and disguise themselves as Bedouins--Russell as the beardless youth "Amir"--to join them in a stealthy reconnaissance through the dusty countryside.

A recent rash of murders seems unrelated to the growing tensions between Jew, Moslem, and Christian, yet Holmes is adamant that he must reconstruct the most recent one in the desert gully where it occurred. His singular findings will lead him and Russell through labyrinthine bazaars, verminous inns, cliff-hung monasteries--and into mortal danger. When her mentor's inquiries jeopardize his life, Russell fearlessly wields a pistol and even assays the arts of seduction to save him. Bruised and bloodied, the pair ascend to the jewellike city of Jerusalem, where they will at last meet their adversary, whose lust for savagery and power could reduce the city's most ancient and sacred place to rubble and ignite this tinderbox of a land....

Classically Holmesian yet enchantingly fresh, sinuously plotted, with colorful characters and a dazzling historic ambience, O Jerusalem sweeps readers ever onward in the thrill of the chase.

Well, there isn't much I can add to the Goodreads summary for O Jerusalem.  Suffice to say, this is the entire section of time that was skipped during The Beekeeper's Apprentice when Holmes and Mary had to flee England to recover and plan.  Of course, being who they are, it certainly isn't a quiet trip through the Holy Land.  I have to really say that I loved, LOVED the care and research taken with respect to the setting, detail, and atmosphere of World War I-era Palestine. I appreciated it very much and loved every word. Interesting plot, too, since it basically underlines issues still present nearly a century later.  This is much better than the previous installment in the series, The Moor.

That said, I had a great deal of trouble jumping back from the Mary and Holmes of A Letter of Mary and The Moor , where they are married and that part of their partnership is addressed/settled, to an eighteen-year-old Mary and not-sure-what-to-do-with-her Holmes who literally skirts the issue of her being female/his attraction to her by dressing her as a boy during their sojurn in Palestine. This might be a book better read right after book #1, The Beekeeper's Apprentice , since no forward-looking allusions to their relationship are made in O Jerusalem, and it must be read before book #6, Justice Hall (see next review).

And I have one series-level complaint: whoever thought up the cover designs with "Mary" on them dressed in a bathrobe and holding Holmes's pipe really needs to actually read the books - far too provocative. I like the new paperback re-issues better.

Dear FTC: I borrowed this from the library.

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