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Carpe Librum

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Historical Novel Society

Review: Dreaming Spies by Laurie King

Dreaming Spies: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes - Laurie R. King

I went into the reading of this novel expecting something similar to the Sherlock Holmes that we have all grown to love, though I understood that he would now have a partner whom I expected would serve as a sort of female Watson. This is not that story.

My expectations were inappropriate mostly due to the fact that I have not read the first 12 books in this series. While I like to attend to novels in their proper order, a dozen prequels was too much, even for me. As a stand alone story, I was able to follow this plot and characters without difficulty. I had only to accustom myself to the idea that Holmes was a quite minor character, and I believe that John has at times seemed more in love with Sherlock than Mary does.

The style of writing also differs from that of traditional Holmes mysteries. For those of us who are used to consuming fast-paced, action-packed mystery served up by Arthur Conan Doyle, Laurie King's prose is intelligent but exceedingly slow. One similarity is that it is Mary telling the story (as John does), but this feels more like Mary telling her own story, rather than Holmes'.

Much of this book reads more like a travel journal than a mystery, and it was not until the last quarter of it that I felt any quickening of pace or anything like the suspense and action that I had expected. While I appreciated the historical and cultural research that clearly went into this installment, I had not really looked for a study of Japan and its people.

Assuming that this is written in a similar style to the rest of the series, those who have enjoyed Mary Russell's story will be impressed by this interwoven story of international intrigue, blackmail, and secrets. And Ninjas!

I thank NetGalley and Random House for my copy of this novel. Opinions expressed are my own.