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A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #2)

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes- Expanded

This second in the Mary Russell series gives the reader even more insight into the WWI era of Britain, in this case in particular the attitudes pertaining to and about women of the time. I found the mystery wrapped around the female "preacher" to be a great contrast to ...
This second in the Mary Russell series gives the reader even more insight into the WWI era of Britain, in this case in particular the attitudes pertaining to and about women of the time. I found the mystery wrapped around the female "preacher" to be a great contrast to the murders that were happening around her. Laurie King's sense of timing enhances the relationship between the characters of Russell and Holmes. Anticipating the next repartee between these two is half the fun. I was reluctant at first to place Sherlock Holmes anywhere else but between the pages of Conan Doyle. Since reading three other books in the series I have found the partnership between Holmes and Russell to be an enhancement of Conan Doyles' masterpieces.

posted by Cher58 on April 11, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Not for Everyone

If you are a Sherlock Holmes purist, I'd stay clear of this one. While it is well-written enough, its focus was clearly not on the science of deduction or the mystery itself (Which wasn't all that difficult for the reader to solve). Didn't Holmes often complain to Watso...
If you are a Sherlock Holmes purist, I'd stay clear of this one. While it is well-written enough, its focus was clearly not on the science of deduction or the mystery itself (Which wasn't all that difficult for the reader to solve). Didn't Holmes often complain to Watson about deviation away from the science of the crime for the sake of sensationlism? Anyway, this yellow back novel is entertaining for the less strict fans who may not notice the out of character qualities in Holmes, and delightful for fans who've always had a crush on him. But for the most part, purists (Like myself) should just read Beekeeper's Apprentice and be done with it!

posted by Anonymous on August 25, 2007

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes- Expanded

    This second in the Mary Russell series gives the reader even more insight into the WWI era of Britain, in this case in particular the attitudes pertaining to and about women of the time. I found the mystery wrapped around the female "preacher" to be a great contrast to the murders that were happening around her. Laurie King's sense of timing enhances the relationship between the characters of Russell and Holmes. Anticipating the next repartee between these two is half the fun. I was reluctant at first to place Sherlock Holmes anywhere else but between the pages of Conan Doyle. Since reading three other books in the series I have found the partnership between Holmes and Russell to be an enhancement of Conan Doyles' masterpieces.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2007

    Not for Everyone

    If you are a Sherlock Holmes purist, I'd stay clear of this one. While it is well-written enough, its focus was clearly not on the science of deduction or the mystery itself (Which wasn't all that difficult for the reader to solve). Didn't Holmes often complain to Watson about deviation away from the science of the crime for the sake of sensationlism? Anyway, this yellow back novel is entertaining for the less strict fans who may not notice the out of character qualities in Holmes, and delightful for fans who've always had a crush on him. But for the most part, purists (Like myself) should just read Beekeeper's Apprentice and be done with it!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Just a 'middle book' after all

    This is a 'middle' book. What I mean by that is that it seems to be mostly about setting up further character and plot developments rather than completely being a story unto itself.
    We get to learn much more about Mary Russell, her coming of majority, her inheritance, and learning to deal with aspects of both.
    Interwoven in this is a mystery, Russell is met by an old Oxford chum on London's streets and asked for help with an ill fiance. She follows along to a worship service at 'the Temple' which preaches in conflict to standard mores of the times. Women are more than subservient and obedient to their male counterparts, intelligent and vital and worth just as much on their own. Into this arena falls the mystery. I won't give any more away because it IS worth the read to find out what goes on.
    Sherlock Holmes is a bit of a supporting character, sometimes only appearing in Russell's mental ponderings. Clearly it is she who is the 'star' of the tale.
    And the final surprise? After almost two books tip toeing around about the it is finally solved in an seemingly offhanded manner. "oh yes, and by the way...". Maybe I exaggerate a little, but that's how it felt.
    All that aside I DID enjoy the book and look forward to reading the next in the series "Letter of Mary". I think this was just a 'middle book' after all.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    It is no Beekeepers Apprentice

    I loved The Beekeepers Apprentice and when I finished it I immediately bought this book. I did not like this book. It was tedious, however I enjoyed learning more about Mary. I will buy the next book in the series and hope for better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An excellent sequel to a great start - definitely recommend the book and the series

    Find my full review at http://theokester.blogspot.com


    I jumped into this second book in the '<i>Mary Russell</i>' series, hoping it would be as good or better than the first novel, <i>The Beekeeper's Apprentice</i>. Beyond that, I really had no expectations.

    The book started out a little slower than I might have liked for a sequel. However, the genre and the way the book is set up essentially required a certain amount of buildup in order to set the plot for the newest mystery in the series.

    Thus, even though we already had a great deal of information about the relationship between Mary Russell and the famous Sherlock Holmes, it was vital that we learned more about Mary's studies, her "coming of majority" and receiving her inheritance, her interest in scripture/religion, and basically take the time to get to know her better.

    It's been a bit since I read the first book, but it seemed like this novel focused a lot more on Mary's character and let her come into the limelight a bit more. In <i>Beekeeper</i>, she did hold her own with Holmes in many ways, but he was often an overpowering factor. In <i>Monstrous Regiment</i>, the general setting (a feminist organization), Holmes was forced to take the passenger seat (he most definitely wasn't relegated to the back seat).

    Holmes was still very present with all of his precise observations and intense/eccentric behaviors. But Mary definitely came "of majority" both in terms of receiving her inheritance but also in terms of being a viable character and a force to be reckoned with.

    The mystery of the book was developed very gradually. Mary has a school friend who is having some 'man trouble' and seeks Mary's advice. Before we go too far into thinking that he will be at the heart of the plot, Mary is quickly invited to attend a 'service' at this "Regiment of Women" where she becomes very intrigued by the woman who controls the organization. Her intrigue grows to a combination of admiration, curiosity and finally suspicion. A handful of coincidental deaths lead Mary to dig deeper and to use some of Holmes's influence to utilize police (and other - Mycroft) records to investigate the society.

    The "man problems" subplot managed to stay in the periphery due to the man's drug addiction and I really liked the way King wove the drug addiction throughout the main plot as well. Her descriptions of the "high" and "low" points of addiction and recovery were very vivid and especially intriguing as Mary experienced some of that dark underworld.

    The final unraveling of the mystery happened a bit too quickly for me after the slow buildup. Fortunately there was an intense period towards the end that helped bridge the gap. The 'revelation' phase did work out pretty well, though part of me still felt like there were a number of unfair additions (primarily who the real villain was) but there was enough previous buildup to make it work.

    So overall, I really enjoyed this book. I had a lot of fun getting to know Russell a bit better and to learn more about her interactions with Holmes (there was on surprise referred to early on that then hangs over the entire book and partially resolves itself at the end.I'd heard rumors of this from my wife when she read the series, but the way Holmes presented this to Mary

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    New Look at Old Hero

    I've raved about King's first book in this series to everyone I know, and book two tops it. A narrower potential audience for this book, because it weaves in and out of early feminism. You are either into that or not. I'm not and I found the book thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, it was thought provoking. "Bee Keepers Apprentice" was also thought provoking but not to this extent, because the change from Victorian to Edwardian culture was less advanced in that first book.

    Also "Apprentice" did a lot more character establishment which begins to pay off in "Regiment." King masterfully sets both Character and plot in a perfect setting. Writing about Sherlock Holmes' apprentice turned paramour without broaching feminism would be like writing a book about Marry Todd Lincoln without mentioning slavery.

    This is not to say that the focus of the book is feminism. These books are about Holmes and Russell. Even the mysteries in them, though compelling, are not the main point. Its this aspect of the series I find most surprising. The Style reflects an English Cozy style novel more than Doyle's Gothic original style. So character, period, and writing style, are changed and yet Holmes is not. Superb!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2014

    Very good.

    I liked the part where Russell was teasing Mrs. Hudson about wearing her apron to bed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2014

    I was severely disappointed by this second outing in the "B

    I was severely disappointed by this second outing in the "Beekeeper's Apprentice" series. There's much less of Holmes and much more of Mary Russell, who comes across very much as a "Mary Sue", a stand-in for the author's wish fulfillment fantasies, jammed into a Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

    While the first novel had a very Conan-Doyle type mystery to sustain its heroine's failings, this second novel really doesn't have much of a mystery at all, and the denouement is painfully obvious from about halfway through the book.

    As every "Mary Sue" must be, our Mary Russell is adored by all, and superhuman in intelligence, endurance, and in overcoming obstacles that lay low the laity. The other characters seem to be stock characters by comparison; her flighty but good-hearted friend Veronica, Veronica's battle-weary addict of a boyfriend, and the supposed antagonist of the piece, a feminist cult leader.

    There's some beautifully efficient writing in this book, but all too often in service of stock scenes that seem like bad Merchant Ivory movie footage that was wisely left on the cutting room floor.

    This period of time in world history was a fascinating breathing space between WW1 and WW2. In the midst of it, Fitzgerald gave us "The Great Gatsby". Looking back through the eyes of her "Mary Sue", King gives us a boring and pedantic look at Biblical scholarship, and avoids Women's Suffrage, the disruption to British life caused by the loss of millions of young men, and the beginning of the end of the British Empire itself.

    Instead, we focus on a female biblical scholar at Cambridge who magically and wholly unrealistically never encounters any chauvinism or boorishness at study. In reality, she probably would have been mooned at her dissertation.

    Conan Doyle succeeded by making Doctor Watson our stand-in, a man of intelligence, but not one who upstaged Holmes. Here Holmes is little more than romantic fodder for our "Mary Sue".

    Blah!

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    better than the 1st

    Love love love this series. I just started reading this series and I loved the 2nd one better than the 1st one. Great read and lots of fun.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2012

    Highly Recommend

    I loved this smartly written mystery with one foot in recent past and another in the world of Sherlock Holmes. The character of Mary Russell (Sherlock's colleague and love) is wonderful. From the very first page, I could not put it down and period mysteries are not usually my cup of tea. King is a very competent writer who seems to draft her plot in advance and not wait till the end to draft a finale.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Not quite as good as the first one

    It did have an intriging plot most of the time. It drifted some of the times.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2011

    An intertaining book. You will want to read more of Mary Russell.

    I found it fast moving and enough of a mystery that I kept reading it. I wanted more. There was history. I learned about Women's rights in England. Their fight for independence and rights was awesome. Young women will enjoy as well as all ages. It would make a great book club book. The discussions would be interesting and varied.

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  • Posted September 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A brilliant mystery

    This is the darkest book in the series, and one of my favorites. Holmes and Russell have been together for years now, and their relationship is going through another change. Russell is now an adult and ready to explore. When she takes a case of her her own, Holmes has to take a step back and let her go her own way. This book is the one that really sets the tone of their future partnership. Holmes' understated yet very intense emotions come even closer to the surface when Russell is threatened, adding another layer to their already complicated feelings.


    The character of Margery Childe is complex, unique and fascinating. She has such a mixture of passion, intelligence and ignorance. Her vibrant personality draws people to her like moths to a flame, including Russell. People around Margery are dying, but is she the one to blame? Margery's theological philosophy combined with Russell's expertise in the field lead to some interesting conversations that really get you thinking. Also, Margery is a wonderful illustration of both the pros and cons of extreme feminism.


    Drug use plays a very important role in the story. First with young Miles, the fiance of an old friend of Russell's who has returned damaged from the Great War. Then with Russell herself. Not wanting to give anything else away, I will just say that the latter half of this novel becomes deeply personal and painful for both Russell and Holmes.


    I became so engrossed in the characters of this novel, their flaws and imperfections, their emotions and reactions. This novel has some of the best character development I have ever seen. I would recommend this book to all lovers of mystery, historical fiction and well-written characters. It is not one to be missed.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2010

    Good read

    Started with the Bee Keepers Apprentice not realizing this was the start of a series. Books can be read individually without needing the books before or after to follow. Enjoyed the 1st so have read all but the last 3 and I'm working my way to the end.
    I enjoyed the story line, plot, locations and characters.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2003

    Love all the Mary Russell Stories!

    This is one of my favorites of the Mary Russell series. I am an avid Holmes fan,and unlike other Holmes pastiches, this one lives up to the original.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 3, 2010

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    Posted February 14, 2012

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    Posted February 18, 2011

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    Posted September 11, 2011

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    Posted May 22, 2010

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