Synopses & Reviews
The third book in the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes series.
It is 1923. Mary Russell Holmes and her husband, the retired Sherlock Holmes, are enjoying the summer together on their Sussex estate when they are visited by an old friend, Miss Dorothy Ruskin, an archeologist just returned from Palestine. She leaves in their protection an ancient manuscript which seems to hint at the possibility that Mary Magdalene was an apostle--an artifact certain to stir up a storm of biblical proportions in the Christian establishment. When Ruskin is suddenly killed in a tragic accident, Russell and Holmes find themselves on the trail of a fiendishly clever murderer. Brimming with political intrigue, theological arcana, and brilliant Holmesian deductions.
"An intellectual puzzler, full of bright red herrings and dazzling asides."--Chicago Tribune
"A lively adventure in the very best of intellectual company."--The New York Times Book Review
"Witty, literate . . . There's nothing elementary about King's take on period details or the behavior of her characters."--Orlando Sentinel
"The game's afoot. And a lively, well-plotted game it is."--The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Elegant . . . Laurie R. King continues to inhabit Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character like an inspired actor, faithful to the role yet adding so much of her own that he becomes far more than the sum of his quirks."--San Jose Mercury News
"I report that Laurie R. King's A Letter of Mary delights me as much as its two predecessors. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed this book; I also admired it."--The Boston Sunday Globe
"Superb . . . The great marvel of King's series is that she's managed to preserve the integrity of Holmes's character and yet somehow conjure up a woman astute, edgy, and compelling enough to be the partner of his mind as well as his heart."--The Washington Post
From Edgar Award-winning author Laurie R. King, this national bestseller has met unprecedented acclaim from critics as diverse as "The New York Times Book Review": " a lively adventure in the very best of intellectual company". The case of an amateur archaeologist whose discoveries in the Holy Land may have resulted in her murder, this novel finds the inimitable duo of Russell and Holmes in superlative form. Martin's Press.
About the Author
Laurie R. King is the Edgar Award-winning author of four contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, eight acclaimed Mary Russell mysteries, and four stand-alone novels, including the highly praised A Darker Place. She lives in northern California.
Reading Group Guide
1. In the beginning of the novel, Mary Russell is presented with two artifacts, both of uncertain origin: a box that may have belonged to T. E. Lawrence of the Arab Revolt, and a letter on papyrus that appears to have been written by Mary Magdalene. Do you agree that artifacts, like oral histories, dont always tell the truth? Discuss how Laurie R. King describes the box and the papyrus, and the ways in which they serve as metaphor for how history is recorded and how it changes over time.
2. It has been over eight years since Russell first met Holmes, and they are now settled in the comfortable routines of marriage. Russell can deduce Holmes mood merely by observing his newspaper reading habits ("an unread newspaper meant an unsettled mind"). Does this sensitivity surprise you? In what ways does marriage seem to have changed Russell since the earlier books in the series? In what ways is theirs a typical marriage, how is it unusual, and how do you see the relationship developing in future volumes? Are all of us, in a sense, detectives, making deductions and trying to understand the behavior of the people we know and love?
3. If you were in Russells shoes, would you experience the same pressure and guilt that she feels regarding whether to go public with the letter? How do you think the letter would alter the course of human history, of Christianity? What would it mean to the world if a woman were historically raised to the prominence of an apostle?
4. What was your reaction to Mycrofts debriefing on Ruskins involvement in the Friends of Palestine, and her relationship with Colonel Edwards? Discuss the ways in which King weaves thethreads of the plot together in this scene, especially how Ruskins sister, Erica, and the two Arab men who visited Ericas home prior to Ruskins murder, are brought into the story. As the plot thickens, how does your understanding of Ruskins life, work, and motives change?
5. When Russell goes undercover as Mary Small, she admits an attraction to both Colonel Edwards and to his son. Was this admission surprising to you? What do you think of the later scene in which Russell allows the Colonel to kiss her wrist? In what ways does this sexual dimension change Russells character— does it make her stronger, more vulnerable, more whimsical?
6. Moreover, what parallels can be drawn between Russells moment of weakness with Colonel Edwards and the story of Mary Magdalene? "I was filled with admiration for the pure, distilled strength of the woman, with her simple, deadly decisions—and for the first time I wondered what had become of the granddaughter, Rachel, how old she had been, if she made it safely to Magdala," Russell writes. What themes are reflected in this passage, and have been running throughout the course of the book? How do these themes affect all the women in this novel?
7. What was your reaction when you read Ruskins letter to her sister dated November 22, 1920? How well did the contents within support Holmes previous deduction of Ericas character based on her handwriting?
8. Although the title refers mainly to the letter written by Mary Magdalene, there are several letters throughout the book. In the last paragraph, Russell mentions three main letters, and still there are several others. How does King use letter writing as a device to move the story forward, and as a metaphor for the voice of history?