This week is a comfort read week. I’ve picked books by two prolific writers of crime fiction to settle into. They’re both authors that I’ve read and enjoyed in the past. Both books date back to the last century, the oldest going all the way back to 1972, when I was still at school. One continues a series that I started with enthusiasm but have been stalled on for a few years now. The other is the first book in a series that I’m hoping I’ll be using as a comfort read.
‘O Jerusalem‘ by Laurie R King (1999)
I stumbled over “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” in December 2014 and fell in love with it after only a few pages. I loved the premise of an older Holmes finally meeting someone with the talent to work alongside him as an equal rather than as a documenter of his greatness as John Watson had. The fact that the talented person Holmes meets, Mary Russel, the beekeeper’s apprentice of the title, was a fifteen-year-old girl took a bit of adjusting to. It helped that the story was told not by the fifteen-year-old Mary Russel but by her ninety-four-year-old self looking back on her long association with Sherlock Holmes whom she first bumped into on the Sussex Downs in 1915 when she was a teenage girl recovering from a recent calamity and seeking refuge in books and long walks.
I consumed the next three books in fifteen months, which is fairly quick by my standards. The second book ‘A Monstrous Regiment Of Women’ pulled me into the series. It was the book where Mary Russell came of age and moved to be centre stage in her own story. It was also a book crammed with interesting ideas of religion and patriarchy. The third book, ‘A Letter Of Mary’ stumbled a little. Perhaps it was because it was so focused on Russell and Holmes as a newly married couple, or perhaps it was the melancholy that wrapped around the story like fog but it didn’t work well for me. The fourth book, ‘The Moor’ saw a return to form. It captured the bleakness of Dartmoor in winter, showed how well Russell and Holmes worked together as a crime-solving team and had a satisfying plot.
Then I reached the fifth book, ‘O Jerusalem’ and stalled, partly because the book goes back in time to shortly after ‘The Beekeeper’s Apprentice’, which seemed to me to risk losing the momentum the series had acquired and partly because I seldom enjoy books set in rancid politics of the Middle East.
I’ve been stalled for almost six years now so it seemed to me that it was time either to abandon the series or give ‘O Jerusalem’ a try. Here’s hoping I enjoy it because, if I do, I have another fifteen books to read in the series.
‘The Seventh Sinner’ by Elizabeth Peters (1972)
I’ve picked up ‘The Seventh Sinner’ for three reasons: Audible offered it to me for free, it’s the first book in a series that seems well-regarded and I had a lot of fun with the first two books of Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series. Set in the 1880s, the series is written as the journal of the redoubtable Amelia Peabody, a plucky, unmarried English gentlewoman who, having decided to use her recently inherited wealth to pursue her passion for Egyptology, travel to Egypt where she encounters what appears to be a homicidal mummy.
‘The Seventh Sinner’ was written four years before the first Amelia Peabody book and is set in what, in 1972, was contemporary Italy. It launches a series of books about Jacqueline Kirby, an American librarian and amateur/accidental sleuth with a knack for finding dead bodies.
I’m hoping that the book has aged well and will be a good, fast read about the things an intrepid librarian can achieve in the face of danger.