Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King

by Laurie R. King
Release Date: September 4th, 2012
2012 Bantam
Ebook Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-0553807998
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

In a strange room in Morocco, Mary Russell is trying to solve a pressing mystery: Who am I? She has awakened with shadows in her mind, blood on her hands, and soldiers pounding on the door. Out in the hivelike streets, she discovers herself strangely adept in the skills of the underworld, escaping through alleys and rooftops, picking pockets and locks. She is clothed like a man, and armed only with her wits and a scrap of paper containing a mysterious Arabic phrase. Overhead, warplanes pass ominously north.

Meanwhile, Holmes is pulled by two old friends and a distant relation into the growing war between France, Spain, and the Rif Revolt led by Emir Abd el-Krim—who may be a Robin Hood or a power mad tribesman. The shadows of war are drawing over the ancient city of Fez, and Holmes badly wants the wisdom and courage of his wife, whom he’s learned, to his horror, has gone missing. As Holmes searches for her, and Russell searches for herself, each tries to crack deadly parallel puzzles before it’s too late for them, for Africa, and for the peace of Europe.

My Thoughts
Garment of Shadows is the twelfth novel in the Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell series and like its predecessors, lives up to the author's amazing ability to provide great breadth and scope to her mystery stories.  While I do admit to being somewhat skeptical in the face of using amnesia as one of the 'tools' for this story, I should have known that Ms. King would use the concept well and it would not simply take another hit to the head and Mary would miraculously have all of her memories back.  Like her previous novels, the mystery was subtle and you really had to pay attention to every detail in order to grasp the full context of everything that was going on.

One of the things I have enjoyed over the years in these historical mysteries is learning about obscure historical points that don't always get touched upon a lot in other novels. In this case, Mary and Sherlock are in Morocco and are in placed in the midst of a growing war between France, Spain, and the Rif Revolters.  While it is a period of history I have heard about, it was not one with which I was overly familiar so it was a treat to learn about this time period in more detail and I took time to do some research of my own to learn more about the era.  Ms. King has a way of immersing the reader into the time period along with her characters and I felt like I was right there walking the streets of Fez along with Mary as she was trying to familiarize herself with who she was and what she was doing there.  

I am also a huge fan of Mary, more so than Sherlock Holmes, as she is a modern woman who can pick locks, change disguises, and do all sorts of things that a woman of that time probably could not do.  And I definitely enjoy the intellectual give-and-take between the characters - it's so much fun.  I have especially enjoyed her growth in these past few novels as she has evaded Mycroft's machinations and manipulations and yet she has managed so far to keep the same moral identity and fibre that she had right from the beginning: I have often wondered if she would cave in to the spy manipulations and manoeuverings that were happening around her and allow the deceptions to change her character, but so far she has kept true to herself.  It has been fun watching her deceive some of the brightest men in England so far though.

Garment of Shadows is an interesting and fascinating addition to the series and I enjoyed it tremendously.  The characters continue to grow and develop, and I learn new things about them continuously which I love.  I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this series and I am curious as to where the author will send them next.


  1. I was also skeptical about the amnesia plot but enjoyed how it was handled. Like you, I didn't know much about this period in Morocco and it was interesting to see what King included along with what I discovered in my own research.

  2. So glad you appreciated the historical background on Morocco as I did. It gave substance to the story. It reveals the great skill Ms. King has in combining fiction and history to both entertain and enlighten the reader.