This book was an absolute delight to read. I’m not a big mystery enthusiast, but this book was well-written, well-plotted, and intelligent in a way that many mystery novels are not.
Mary Russell is a fun character to delve into. King wrote the story in first-person from Mary’s point of view, and Mary is delightful. The Sherlock Holmes that the reader sees in this novel is not the same as that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original portrayal of him. In this novel, he is 30 years older, seemingly retired, and much less sociopathic than the original. It’s a little hard to get used to, because the original Holmes is strangely lovable as an asshole, but I came to love this one too.
Mary and Sherlock meet one day as she is walking across the fields of Sussex. With her face buried in a book, the fifteen-year-old nearly tramples him, and that is their first fateful meeting. After a brief conversation, in which Mary startles and fascinates him with her sharp wit and cunning intelligence, he brings her back to his cottage, where he lives in retirement. There, Mrs. Hudson feeds her undernourished frame, and her friendship with Holmes solidifies. Shortly, she begins to come to his cottage multiple times a week, and an unspoken agreement that he will train her as his apprentice arises. The majority of this novel is back story, though eventually they begin to solve cases together, until the last big one of the novel breaks over their heads like a storm surge. I confess, the mystery of it was cunningly constructed, and I did not see the resolution coming at all. This may be because I rarely read mysteries and am not used to deducing the outcome, but I like to think it’s because King is a clever writer.
The prose is extremely enjoyable. Mary Russell is extremely intelligent and well-spoken. Her vocabulary is exceptional, and I had to make a list of the words I did not know.