Written by Laurie R. King
Reviewed by Julie Carpenter and Jarad Johnson
This review is done in a point/counterpoint style. We thought it would be interesting to show two different perspectives on the same book!
Mary Russell receives a mysterious summons from her theological studies at Oxford to join her husband, Sherlock Holmes to help him investigate a death and some very odd, if not supernatural circumstances. They meet at the home of Holmes’ friend the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, a character central to the plot, and an old-fashioned, curmudgeonly foil for Mary. This case recalls one of Holmes’ most famous, the Hound of the Baskervilles, and takes place in the same area. Has the Hound returned? Central to the plot are the odd characters that abound on the moor.
Jarad’s Review -
This book surprised me; in that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I normally do with the Mary Russell series. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine, but I was in no way as riveted as I have been in the past. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time for me to read it, but in comparison to the other Russell books, I found this one to be a little lackluster. The plot was almost nonexistent. I found no direction, no real mission behind the story, and it couldn’t hold me, which I found really disappointing. In the first half of the book, events occurred, but I felt like nothing happened. And the case that Russell and Holmes were working on for the longest time felt like no case at all. Also, when the case finally came together, I felt like it was a little obvious. I suppose that Homes would say that every case isn’t chock full of twists and turns, but in the end, it just contributed to my disillusionment. I really felt like I was reading shadows of the characters, and not the full 3D version that King usually writes.
So overall this is, in my opinion, not the best book in the series. I just found that I wasn’t invested in the story, and I was in no hurry to finish it. Perhaps this is a book to revisit in the summer, but as of now I’m kind of underwhelmed.
Julie’s Review -
Let me start by saying that I think Jarad is right, the plot on this one meanders a bit, but that’s the very thing that makes this my favorite book in the series. As a bit of a ditherer myself, I thoroughly approve of slowly discovering the mysteries of life while simply bumbling about.
But I don’t think that’s exactly what’s going on in this book. I think that the real antagonist in this saga is the Moor itself. Massive, impenetrable, and brooding, the moor does not give up its secrets easily and the reader feels a thick wall of strangeness between the couple and the answer. Instead of the usual quick perceptions, the buildup of clues and red herrings, the couple must submerge themselves into the eerie world and slowly build trust with the people (and even animals) who live there.
This allows the reader to wander with the protagonists around the moor, settling in and observing the endless tracts of heather, the feeling of being lost in a mysterious fog. Disorientation, a feeling of how easily one could be lost forever on the haunted moor settles over the story, giving every stop at a pub or return to the manor house a feeling of triumphant return to safety, warmth and civilization.
One of my main aims when reading, especially mysteries, is to ease into a setting until I feel at home, to meet characters, both in the literary and homely sense of the word, to be part of another world. A meandering plot lets me settle in a little, lets me amble to the end of the book. I have to hand it to Jarad. This plot does not race to the end, it takes a nice, long walk across the moor to get there. That’s just my speed.
(Incidentally, this is the novel I was reading when I realized that I loved my garden in The Garden That Was Hard to Love.)
Julie Carpenter is the creator of the Sacred Chickens website. She is dedicated to telling stories and making sure that indie writers and publishers have a way to be heard. She uses narrative, her own and others’, to help interpret the world. She has a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Memphis, with an emphasis in Composition Theory. She wants to bend reality one story at a time. Julie’s work has appeared in Fiction on the Web and will be included The New Guard. She is currently working on a novel.
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He recently developed an interest (some might say obsession) with gardening. Jarad is an English major with a concentration in literature. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!