April 04, 2003

Justice Hall, by Laurie R. King

This is the latest of King's Mary Russell Holmes mysteries, just out in paperback; I bought it a couple of weeks before leaving for Australia, intending to read it on the plane, and would that I had. I'd have gotten more enjoyment out of it in that context than I would have out of either of the books I actually did read on the flight over. But I enjoyed it once I got to Australia anyway.

For those who aren't aware of this series, it postulates that there was a real Sherlock Holmes, similar to but rather younger than the familiar character. In the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, he meets a young woman, Mary Russell, and takes her on as his apprentice. Later they marry, despite the age difference between them. (Yes, there's a bit of an Amelia Peabody feel to the whole thing, but only a bit.)

In an earlier book, O, Jerusalem, they become acquainted with two British intelligence officers in the Middle East. In the current book, one of them is in serious trouble and calls on the pair to help out. The action largely takes place at a stately country home called Justice Hall, the seat of the Dukes of Beaufort.

I try not to say too much about the plot of mystery novels; after all, plot is everything in a mystery, and I don't want to give it away. But I will say that the book involves (in part) a young soldier summarily executed at the front lines during World War I--and that Reginald Hill did a better job at it in The Wood Beyond. Also, I disliked the ending; although it tied up all of the loose ends satisfactorily, it wasn't very satisfying. It seemed rushed; and while the actual events were OK, I think they could have been motivated better.

But I'm being picky. Justice Hall is a worthy addition to the series, and a good read besides.

Posted by Will Duquette at April 4, 2003 05:06 PM