Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book Review: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

I admit that today's review is long overdue, as this book was released a few weeks ago.  I have had it on my "currently reading" list for a while, but it was slow going.  You see, when I first saw this book on NetGalley I was excited to read a new Sherlock  Holmes series.  I requested it, and then decided to check to see if there were previous books in the series.  I was surprised to find that this book is number thirteen in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series.  Since I had a little time before the release date, I purchased the first book The Beekeeper's Apprentice just to test the series to see if I liked it.  I bought this book through Audible and really enjoyed how the narrator, Jenny Sterlin, read the book and the different parts.  While the story stretched out really, really long, it did have a good mystery in it, so I decided to go ahead and purchase the second book, (also on Audible) A Monstrous Regiment of Women.  After reading the first two books in the series, I felt ready to tackle reading book number thirteen, and hoped I wouldn't be too out of the loop to like it.
When the release date for Dreaming Spies rolled around, I was not quite half way through the book.  Even though the story was getting interesting, it was really hard for me to follow it.  So, I used my Audible credit for March, and let Jenny Sterlin guide me through the pages again.
This book tells of Sherlock and Mary's trip to Japan and what happened there.  Apparently that has been a bit of a mystery to readers for a while.  While onboard a ship traveling between England and the United States, Mary and Holmes meet a young woman named Haruki.  She claims that she has been in the West, studying to help out her family's business in Japan.  They are the owners of a small hotel in the mountains there.  But while sneaking around the ship one night after dark, Mary and Homes discover that there is more to this young woman than meets the eye.  What's more, she knows who they are, even though they are traveling under assumed names.  She asks them to come to her home and meet her family, and then perhaps she will tell them what her mission is, and why she sought them out.  Upon arriving in Haruki's village Holmes and Mary are introduced to a very important person, and asked to help recover a important document that has been stolen by a blackmailer.  Things don't go exactly as planned, but in the end Holmes and Mary return to England believing that all is well.  They promptly put their time in Japan behind them until a few months later when Haruki shows up at Mary's home...and she's bleeding.  Thus they set off on another adventure and a dangerous search.  In the end the Holmes' are left wondering what part they played in this great intrigue, or if they were really just bystanders all along.
To me, Jenny Sterlin makes this series what it is.  While the books are good, it is her narration that makes them shine.  Maybe I just got spoiled by listening to her, and that's why I struggled to read them on my own.  It is strange to read about someone who is just as smart as Sherlock Holmes, and whose mind works as fast as his.  It does make for great adventures and takes less time to tell a story since Holmes isn't always trying to explain himself.  In each of these books that I have read, I have come to a point where I decided that I didn't want to read the next one and was just going to give them up.  But by the end I'm so impressed with how Holmes and Russell solved the case, that I decide to read another one.  Sometimes I get annoyed with all the wordiness.  I think Ms. King could use fewer words and her stories would be just as good.  I got bogged down sometimes with all the descriptions and philosophical ramblings.  And that's saying a lot since I generally like a lot of descriptions.  
This is a refreshing look at Sherlock Holmes, where he isn't painted as some kind of superhero.  Dr. Watson does make appearances in some of the books, as does Holmes' brother Microft.  It's strange to hear them refer to "Doyle" who is credited with writing Holmes' stories and over-embellishing them.  While it's odd to thing of Holmes as man of sixty being married to a twenty-something young woman, it works somehow, although I have to admit that their sleeping arrangements are a source of curiosity for me.  Overall, I think this series is worth reading if you're a Holmes fan who doesn't take Holmes too seriously.  If you're open to seeing a new, and older, side of the great detective--along with some great new adventures in a whole new century--give this series a try.  I do recommend though, that you try to read them in order!

Happy Reading,

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own and a favorable review was not required.        

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