The Mary Russell Series ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Read by Jenny Sterlin
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
Sherlock Holmes takes on a young, female apprentice in this delightful and well-wrought addition to the master detective’s casework. In the early years of WW I, 15-year-old American Mary Russell encounters Holmes, retired in Sussex Downs where Conan Doyle left him raising bees. Mary, an orphan rebelling against her guardian aunt’s strictures, impresses the sleuth with her intelligence and acumen. Holmes initiates her into the mysteries of detection, allowing her to participate in a few cases when she comes home from her studies at Oxford. The collaboration is ignited by the kidnapping in Wales of Jessica Simpson, daughter of an American senator. The sleuthing duo find signs of the hand of a master criminal, and after Russell rescues the child, attempts are made on their lives (and on Watson’s), with evidence piling up that the master criminal is out to get Holmes and all he holds dear.
A Monstrous Regiment of Women
in 1920, Mary is a week away from her 21st birthday and has finished her studies at Oxford, and the relationship between these two forceful, eccentric and indelibly etched characters is charged with sexuality and issues of authority. A chance meeting with a friend in London introduces Mary to Margery Childe, leader of the New Temple of God, a burgeoning institution in which feminism powers both theological inquiry and programs of social activism. Skeptical, analytical Mary, who concentrated on theology at Oxford, is reluctantly drawn toward Childe and the temple’s inner circle, most of whom are wealthy, educated young women. After one of them is murdered, Mary persuades Holmes to help in the recovery of the dead woman’s brother, who became addicted to heroin while in the war. While Holmes is so occupied, Mary learns about other unexpected deaths of temple members and determines to investigate.
A Letter of Mary
set in 1923, involves the suspicious death of Dorothy Ruskin, an amateur archeologist recently returned from Palestine, who gave Mary, an academic theologian, a letter dated about A.D. 70 written by “Mariam the Apostle” to her sister in Magdala. Mary Magdalene? An Apostle? Holmes and “Mrs. Sherlock,” as Lord Peter Wimsey addresses her in a funny cameo, collaborate. Red herrings define the political and cultural climate: a retired colonel’s opposition to women’s suffrage; Dorothy’s interest in Zionism; the British Near East scholar/spy network; the tumultuously upsetting implications of the letter for organized Christianity. The investigation also includes the Ruskin family.
The elderly, eccentric Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould asks his friend Holmes to investigate the murder, as well as sightings of a ghostly carriage drawn by headless horses accompanied by a gigantic hound. In the constant fog and bone-chilling rain, Holmes and Russell tramp the muddy moors interviewing delightful characters. The new owner of Baskerville Hall, a mysterious, wealthy American, is the obvious villain, although it takes all the detectives’ skills to determine his motives.
Two characters from a previous adventure (O Jerusalem), Ali Hazr and his brother, Mahmoud, have problems that require an understanding of British aristocracy and the unraveling of the story behind a British soldier’s execution. This English manor house is examined to good effect, including the changes wrought by WWI, and seamlessly incorporates as background the horrific wartime executions of numerous British soldiers for desertion or cowardice. Separately and jointly, Mary and Sherlock utilize familiar tools: research, disguises, trips to London and France and the connections and expertise of Mycroft Holmes to ferret out crimes committed and contemplated.
It’s 1924, and Kimball O’Hara, the “Kim” of the famous Rudyard Kipling novel, has disappeared. Fearing some kind of geopolitical crisis in the making, Mycroft Holmes sends his brother and Mary to India to uncover what happened. En route, they encounter the insufferable Tom Goodhearta wealthy young American who has embraced Communismtraveling with his mother and sister to visit his maharaja friend, Jumalpandra (“Jimmy”), an impossibly rich and charming ruler of the (fictional) Indian state of Khanpur. With some local intelligence supplied by Geoffrey Nesbit, an Englishman of the old school, and accompanied by Bindra, a resourceful orphan, the couple travel incognito as native magicians (Mary, it goes without saying, learns Hindi on the voyage out). Ultimately, their journey intersects with the paths of the Goodhearts and the mysterious Jimmy. At times, travelogue and cultural history trump plot, but the sights, smells and ideas of India make interesting, evocative reading (Mary’s foray into the dangerous sport of pig-sticking is particularly fascinating).
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