Sunday, March 1, 2015

Review: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, Book #13)
by Laurie R. King
Release Date: February 17th, 2015
2015 Bantam
Ebook Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0345531797
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars


After a lengthy case that had the couple traipsing all over India, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are on their way to California to deal with some family business that Russell has been neglecting for far too long. Along the way, they plan to break up the long voyage with a sojourn in southern Japan. The cruising steamer Thomas Carlyle is leaving Bombay, bound for Kobe. Though they're not the vacationing types, Russell is looking forward to a change of focus - not to mention a chance to travel to a location Holmes has not visited before. The idea of the pair being on equal footing is enticing to a woman who often must race to catch up with her older, highly skilled husband.

Aboard the ship, intrigue stirs almost immediately. Holmes recognizes the famous clubman the Earl of Darley, whom he suspects of being an occasional blackmailer: not an unlikely career choice for a man richer in social connections than in pounds sterling. And then there's the lithe, surprisingly fluent young Japanese woman who befriends Russell and quotes haiku. She agrees to tutor the couple in Japanese language and customs, but Russell can't shake the feeling that Haruki Sato is not who she claims to be.

Once in Japan, Russell's suspicions are confirmed in a most surprising way. From the glorious city of Tokyo to the cavernous library at Oxford, Russell and Holmes race to solve a mystery involving international extortion, espionage, and the shocking secrets that, if revealed, could spark revolution - and topple an empire.

My Thoughts
Dreaming Spies is the thirteenth installment of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, and I have enjoyed each and every one of them, if for very different reasons.  This one actually takes us back a couple of books and explores their journey from India to Japan and their adventures there, then comes full circle to the present and the intriguing mystery that continues in London. What I have always enjoyed about these mysteries is how the author is capable of keeping me unsettled and off-track, believing one thing, only to have another thing happen.  It makes for some interesting reading.

This novel tended to focus more on Mary rather than on Sherlock, although the books are usually narrated in her voice anyways.  There wasn't as much 'sleuthing' on Sherlock's part as is customary and I did kind of miss that to a certain degree as it was always interesting to see what get-up he would be wearing or what state he would be in during his 'activities'.  I am always amazed at how calmly Mary takes everything; she just rolls her eyes, shrugs her shoulders, and goes with the flow.  I mean, how many women could meet the future emperor of Japan (Hirohito) wearing nothing but their birthday suits and just treat it as a regular phenomenon; remember, we are in the early 1920s here.  That being said, I have to admire the author's research yet again in this novel, as her descriptions of Japan during this time period were quite fascinating and I found myself quite involved in the cultural differences pointed out between the English and the Japanese.  I was also quite interested in the many political references, knowing that in less than ten years, Japan would invade Manchuria, a systematic and brutal reign, and become involved in World War II.  I'm not sure if everyone would have picked up on all of the historical and political references however, unless you were quite knowledgeable about the time period, as many of them were quite subtle.  The Great War and World War II are subjects I teach regularly so I am very familiar with them and had no problem discerning the political importance of what was happening.

I found this one to be somewhat different from previous novels in the sense that it was calmer and less frenetic.  Don't get me wrong though, as the novel explores the world of espionage just like the others, but it is more of a cat and mouse type of game, whereby the players are waiting more often than playing, and you can feel the tension building up slowly.  You are introduced to all of the players, but really have no idea where the real danger lies or which player is the snake. There seems to be more philosophical detailing in this one, with the examination between cultures to be extremely important, and a focus on Japanese poetry, something I enjoyed.  And when the action finally caught up to the intrigue, I was a bit unprepared and felt a bit of brain fuzz for not figuring out what was really happening as the author kind of lulled me into a bit of contented reading, to the point where I didn't really pay full attention to the real danger.  Love the author for being able to do that to me as it doesn't happen very often.

Dreaming Spies is another excellent addition to the adventures of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.  While I didn't read this one by sitting on the edge of my seat like usual, there was still enough action and espionage to keep me interested; to be honest, I was too used to these books to believe that nothing out of the ordinary wouldn't happen, and when it did, it caught me off guard.  I liked the slower pace of this one as it gave me time to understand more about Russell and Holmes and learn more about their life.  It felt like a little breather between novels.  However, I am expecting the next installment to pick up the pace again and send the reader on yet another roller coaster of a ride.